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rheCreatvOeVtaman 

Quarterly 




HARRIET MONROE 



WINTER 1984 




Vol. 7, No. 1 



Winter 1984 



The 
^CreatrOe 
Ionian 



A quarterly, Governors State University, University Park, IL 60466-3193 



PUBLISHED UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE PROVOST'S OFFICE, © GOVERNORS STATE UNIVERSITY AND HELEN HUGHES 
ISSN 0736-4733 



STAFF 

Helen E. Hughes, Editor 
Joan Barchard Lewis, Managing Editor 
John Ostenburg, Editorial Consultant 
Suzanne Oliver, Art Director 
Peggv Jeffers, Editorial Assistant 



ADVISORY COUNCIL 

Donna Bancistra, Social Sciences 

Margaret Brady, Journalism 

Rev. Ellen Dohner, Religion 

Rita Durrant, League of American Penwomen 

Ann Gerhart, Women's Networking 

Harriet Gross, Sociology/Woman's Studies 

Helene Guttman, Biological Sciences 

Young Kim, Communications Science 

Harriet Marcus Gross, Journalism 

Elizabeth Ohm, Library Resources 

Betye Saar, Fine Arts 

Sara Shumer, Political Theory 

Emily Wasiolek, Literature 

Rev. Elmer Witt, Campus Ministries 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 



9 
10 

11 
12 
13 
14 
15 
20 
22 
25 
28 
30 
32 

35 

38 
39 

41 

42 
44 



Introduction by Joan Lewis 

Poetry by Sandra Case 

Poetry by L.E. Castner 

Poetry by Sharon Dario 

Poetry by Anne C. Fowler 

Poetry by Nixeon Civille Handy 

Poetry by Terri L. Jewell 

Poetry by Gudrun Mouw, Maureen O'Toole 

Poetry by Rosemary Klein 

Poetry by Sue Saniel Elkind, Lyn Lifshin and Lisa Yount 

Homage to Sappho by Janine Canan 

Ode to Aphrodite by Sappho (translator William Ellery Leonard) 

Playing Post Office by Lisa Ruffolo 

Tying Maw's Quilt by Colleen Tracy 

The Healing Art of Poetry as Therapy by Deborah Eve Grayson 

Mercy Otis Warren by Alis Ellis 

One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty/A Review by Carolyn Carmichael 

Denise Levertov / A Review by Margaret Brady 

A Feeling For The Organism: The Life And Work of Barbara McClintock by Evelyn Fox Keller/ 

A Review by Carolyn Carmichael 
Bernard Shaw As A Woman Writer by Daniel Bernd 
Heartburn / A Review by Margaret Brady 
Editor's Column 
Letters to the Editor 
Fund Raising 
Announcements 



The Creative Woman is a quarterly published by Governors State 
University. We focus on a special topic in each issue, presented 
from a feminist perspective. We celebrate the creative achievements 
of women in many fields and appeal to inquiring minds. We 
publish fiction, poetry, book reviews, articles, photography and 
original graphics. 



Cover photograph of Harriet Monroe from A Poet's Life, 
Harriet Monroe, The MacMillan Co., 1938 





INTRODUCTION 






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It seems quite appropriate to dedicate this issue 
of The Creative Woman, devoted primarily to 
poetry and fiction, to the most remarkable 
editor of poetry of this century. Harriet Monroe, 
born in Chicago, gave that city and indeed the 
20th century a new voice— the voice of the poet, 
especially the American poet speaking in a new 
language. As the founder/editor of Poetry 
magazine, now in its seventy -second year of con- 
tinuous publication, Harriet Monroe established a 
magazine exclusively for poets— a place where 
young poets could be heard and appreciated by 
an audience denied them in conventional jour- 
nals of the day. Professing an open door policy, 
Poetry was independent of profit motive and thus 
was able to accept all poetry of excellence as 
literature. "The test, limited by ever-fallible 
human judgment, is to be quality above all." 
The history of Miss Monroe's magazine, 
although surely fallible, belies her fears: among 
the published ranks of Poetry: T.S. Eliot, Wallace 
Stevens, Ford Madox Ford, W.B. Yeats, D.H. 
Lawrence, Rupert Brooke, Robert Frost, Carl 
Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay, 
Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, Joyce Kilmer, James 
Joyce, William Carlos Williams, Hart Crane, 
Allen Tate, Elinor Wylie, Marianne Moore, 
Robinson Jeffers, and Stephen Spender. 

An editor could not aspire to a more respected 
model of unerring taste. Miss Monroe is general- 
ly accepted as a true catalyst for the renaissance 
in American poetry— she provided the nurturing 
environs at a crucial point in literary history for 
the now recognized major poets of the 20th 
Century. l.B.L. 




^* 






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&M 





POETRY 






TWO FRIENDS 1959 



Two friends sitting on a porch 

in clots of sunlight. 

You prophesize we will die 

before we are thirty. 

My skin too thin 

like a silk purse unsuited for use. 

A small hole in your heart 

causing strange music in your chest. 

Like pieces of unmatched china 

we converse as shade slowly consumes 

our bodies. 

Years later 

we are still alive in separate cities. 

You have buried three marriages 

in Cleveland. Your heart 

beats rock <St roll 

inside your ruffled blouse. 

I am caged in mid-west winters 

writing poems with skins 

thicker than my own. 

The seasons twist 

like pages of a magazine. 

Sandra Case 



From RISING GODDESS by Cynthia UacAdams, published by Morgan i 
Morgan, Dobbs Ferry, New York. 



YOUNG WIFE EARLY SPRING 



She stands naked 
at the window, 
her blond hair 
swallows sun, 
ice bleeds off 
the blue spruce, 
angles 
of her body 
begin to melt, 
birds slide thru 
thin air 
gentle as dreams. 



Sandra Case 





POETRY 





4 



EN ROUTE 

Did we walk together 
on many paths, 
Or were you always 
Miles ahead? 

I know we were 
Companions— friends, 
For you stayed beside me 
When the fog set in 
And slowed your stride 
To match my pace 
On unexpected 
Steep terrain. 

Yet, you must have also 

Been my guide, 

For you traversed the realm 

Ahead of me. 

I would hurry forward 

On verdant stretches 

Eager to discover 

All you had seen 

Anxiously rushing 

To achieve your site 

Before it was only 

Where you had been. 

Are we here together 

On this road? 

Or did you leave me 

Far behind? 

Do we travel today 

On different routes, 

Or unknowing 

Are we side by side? 

I'm sure you must be 
Somewhere near, 
For I often travel 
The path we shared 
Through banks of fog 
On steep terrain. 
But I see the world 
As you saw it first 
With the glory of being 
With humanity in rime, 

So, yes, we're walking 
Side-by-side. 

L.E. Castner 




AT THE EDGE OF LOVE 

If I were a cat, 
I would sit on your fence — 
On the very top rail — 
Just out of reach, 
Keeping you in range. 
You would think I was 
Watching the birds, 
But I would be gazing 
In your window 
Looking for you and 
Listening for your car. 

When you left, I would 
Slip into your flowers 
Hiding under plants, 
Out of sight, waiting 
Knowing when you returned. 
Hearing footsteps inside, 
I would give all nine lives 
To be there behind you. 

Yet I would never sneak 
Into your house even if 
You left your door 
Temptingly ajar. 
You might chase me out 
Wanting solitude or 
Peace of mind. Yes, 
I would know my place. 

But, if I were a cat, 
I would never leave 
The edges of your yard. 

L.E. Castner 





POETRY 





IN THE MIDDLE OF THINGS 

She had to buy tires for the car on borrowed money 

and tried to fix the air conditioning herself; 

she wrote away for instructions, but they never came. 

She was evicted from her house because she couldn't pay the taxes. 

And then she had to have a hysterectomy. 

And her daughter needed to go to college. 

She wanted to turn the ache inside her into 

something of value. She wanted to dance, just once, 

in a chiffon ball gown, red or yellow, 

or blue. 

Sharon Dario 



ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 



"Cybernetic Meadows watched over by machines of loving grace' 

Richard Brautigan 

Out from under the helix hex 

comes a child not of loin, but of mind; 

her exact ecstasy far 

from our carbon chemistries, 

from bone, 

from the edge of the earth. 

Shimmering Shiva of the silicon shell sisters, 
mantissa for mantras, we are dinosaurs 
but you 
are more than fossil. 

We pray the fusion (you iron anvil ark) 
of your brute, mute reason 
with our rough human love. 



She 



Dario 





POETRY 





BIRTHDAY 



A DAY IN THE HOSPITAL 



My ragged fingernails betray me; 

I am not calm. I have turned 

Thirty-six, and my heart 

Has slipped through my fingers 

And into your net. 

My blood is thicker in these middle years 

As it rushes to your call, 

Surges to you, mocking me. 

Words that I do not fully understand 

Leap in my throat, 

And I am 

The captive of strange images. 

I wear my thirty-six years, 

A necklace of brilliants, heavy 

With pain and purpose. 

But my daughter 

Eight years of eagerness, grace 

Seems older than I, and I 

Ache to feel new life within me 

And the rising of milk, again, in my breasts. 

Anne C. Fowler 



Unannounced, you paid a visit 

The day after our daughter was born, wearing 

Your three piece funeral suit, and 

An accusatory look, and carrying 

A large plant wrapped in gold foil. 

Standing in the corner 

Most distant from where she lay 

You interrogated me about medication 

Until she began to cry. 

- Get the nurse to come and take her away, 
You said, - Get the nurse. 

- No, I said, the mother bear with her cub, 
And before I could rake my claws 
Across your deserving face 

You left. You never looked at her. 

- What shall we do with the flowers? 
My mother asked, that afternoon. 

- Get the nurse, I said, - to come and take them away. 

Anne C. Fowler 



MINCEMEAT 



TO MY FOREIGN LOVER 

Do not worry, you 

Who are so afraid to be known 

I will never know you. 

Even when you 

Have crushed me to you completely 

In the rush of juices, meeting 

In every part, confusion 

Of tongues, fingers, surfaces of skin; 

And when you 

Have found your way so far down in me 

That the only route out 

Is through my heart; 

Then, most predictably, you are thinking 
In your first language, a tongue, 
Which I will never speak, 
Or understand. 

Anne C. Fowler 



Are you aware, oh ex-beloved 

How deeply, sharply, wonderfully, 

Your image has been carved 

Upon my heart? 

I do remember your 3:00 a.m. urgency 

A fast cut-and-thrust, no preliminaries, 

To my half-knowing nearness. 

And I recall the razor's edge of doubt 

Shearing your words of meaning and belief 

Each time you said tomorrow. 

I do remember you 

Fencing with your own private God, 

Your foil for infidelity— 

His will be done. 

But when all such incisive recollections 

Are faded to a surface scar, 

I will remember still 

The butcher, wiping his bloody hands 

On his bloodstained apron, 

And moving, smiling, 

On to the next job. 

Anne C. Fowler 



POETRY 



COMMAND PERFORMANCE 



EARLY TRUTH 



In tune with morning wind 

dozens of Swingtime fuschias 

swing against the sun-filled glass. 

I drop my dustcloth 

dance to open the window. 

My tears splash the sill. 

I fondle the scarlet camisoles 

the ivory tutus— leaves applaud. 

My toes touch carpet, we are ballet. 

Honeybees fly in for honey. 

Nixeon Civille Handy 



Born in a dance between father 
and mother, they were the railings 
I clung to across childhood's bridge. 
When mother died a stepmother stepped 
in her place. When father died she reached 
to act both railings. 

Now my husband takes 
my arm. Our children attend endless crossings: 
their children's children. 

Nixeon Civille Handy 




DOMESTIC CROSSROADS 



Ambiguous as wind or water, or chemic test tube 
the soul-rind eats away when the weather vane spins. 
I want to say this: Your decision rides 
an iron mind holding reins above the iron-bound 
wagon wheels, prairie deep. 

My hour flows a river, green as surprise. 

My canoe bends the shore leaps alive 

over blocking boulders. 

When you must ford my river 

I will wait in cove. 

When I need portage, will you hoist 

the canoe with me? May I ride 

buckboard beside you? 
The pioneer sends a far call on a cloudy 





high road, a rainy echo that multiplies 
in sun to deafen. 




Nixeon Civille Handy 


8 











POETRY 





OLD WOMAN PHOTOGRAPH <B24 



KURU 



'Come here, girl. 
Let me fix dat bow in yo' hair. 
Can't be goin' 'round lookin' 
as po' as you really is." 

faded paisley 

skillfully cinched 
smooths the body 
nineteen children 

taut, 
for near a century 
she has spoken 
in tongues 
of hot hominy 
and 
something forever 
missing, 
she's cracked into cubes 
mirroring echoes. . . 
her bosom 

always warm 
for us. 



she is jambalayan persimmon 
smoothed by gold coast sands 
and ripened like 

rare opal moonspin 

held between the lips 

she is a f-i-n-e sister 
in sheer gauze coverings 
and indian prints 
long silk scarves 
and 
heavy gold rings 

from spain 
piercing 

the full sickle of her ear 
and sadly 
some young dude 
will confuse her beauty 

strength 

pride 
with some kuru act of 

manhood. . . 

afterwards 

she will become an applique on a dark stairwell 
on some midnight roof 
on the thunderclouds 
she will spring like a released coil 
to find the fresh earth 
to anchor her true roots 
to stretch her limbs 
for 
the 
moon 






Tern L. leu ell 



: 


POETRY 





PULLING A LOTUS FROM THE MUD 



AN EVENING ALONE 



Wearing rough grey 
surrounded by brown water 
that will never be clear 
the stink ot rotten wood 
dead fish 

I lift the anchor 

pulling a lotus from the mud 

white veins on pink petals... 

mv fingers follow 

smooth fragrant skin 

in the pond of my mind 

I look at the lotus framed 
on a mirror. ..a picture given 
by a friend who struggles daily 
against the mire 
from which her beauty rises 



Gudrun Mouw 



Something is over 
an orange sun topples 
from the summit 
sky burns up 
a short twilight 

Something begins 
wind twirls a dead leaf 
around the house 
moon's pinched face 
rises at the end of earth 

Night lowers a dark sheet 
over the window 
moths beat themselves 
against the lamplit glass 
a face looks back at herself 

Gudrun 



Mc 




ROTOGRAVURE 



HEARTBEAT 



In a hiding place in my mind, 
I have a scrapbook of pictures of you. 
I put them in a montage of expressions and feelings- 
tender moments are caught in ribbons of pastel, 
other moments are tied in crayon-colored yarn. 
The nighttime pictures are monochromatic splashes 
of cerulean blue reflections in misty pools. 
The daytime pictures are three dimensional technicolor. 
Our quarrels are captured in sepia tones; 
their edges having already curled, 
I put them aside when I come across them. 
The night we met is a black and white glossy. 
My favorite picture of you, I take it out often. 
You stand surrounded by dark Felini figures 
with a luminescence around you, 
and with the magic of trick photography, 
the figures fade and disappear, 
leaving you alone standing in the glow. 

Maureen O'Toole 



I lie very still 

listening to my heart beat, 

an untamed captive bird 

pounding against my ribs, so strong 

the room itself seems to vibrate. 

With the smile of a memory 

I lie motionless 

remembering the gentleness of your caress, 

the sureness of your touch, 

the orchestration you create. 

My heart begins to slow to a quieter rhythm, 

a flame-colored bird of Paradise 

alive with loving you. 

Maureen O'Toole 



POETRY 



MAGGIE 

Child, we are marking time 

in this small space. 

This yard 

behind Klug's Dairy Store 

where your mother buys seeds 

to plant in the garden 

that glows in her eyes 

and her smile. 

Being in this small space 

is not hard. 

We make it larger 

by flinging our arms, 

by moving our feet 

one in front of the other 

across a brace of wooden ties, 

we balance ourselves. 

You, 

three year old, 

who need my hands 

girding your waist 

so that you may laugh, 

giggle, 

feel safety 

in the heady rush 

of being free 

so far above the earth; 

you will be balancing 

so much more soon, 

we must all be prepared. 

Right now it is dizzying enough 

to walk the ties 

to watch bumble bees work dandelions 

to peer at tiny green plants 

through plastic walls 

coated with moisture. 

A square cement post is stuck 

at the end of the yard. 

I place you on it 

so you can jump 

with laughter 

into my arms. 

In a moment, 

we will go to meet your mother. 

Hand in hand, 

your mother's friend 

your mother's daughter. 

Child, I have told you all I know 

of the working of bees, 

the mysteries of greenhouses, 

the thrill of balance. 

Now I will tell you something 

strictly for me. 



I need the words 

just as you need my acts, my gestures. 

Child, 

what is happening to us 

in this green and gold and blue April day 

as we mark time 

in a small space 

runs deeper 

than the furrows of all the gardens 

of all the world. 

Rosemary Klein 



MOTHER 

I am stripped of the necessity 

for ritual. Now 

that the hand that changed my diapers 

is gloved; the hair that brushed my lotioned skin 

is hatted. 

I see you as vital, alive. The face that leaned close to me 

to bring me close to my universe. That face is closed 

to my universe. No longer supported by my father 

or pensively by your hand, that face is lifted 

up by glittering rhinestones at each ear. 

The perfume is heavy behind the lobe, around 

the shoulders; in each corner, the chairs are right; 

they support the picture window; the kitchen 

hums; the dining room nods in beige slumber; 

the carpet finally extends from wall to wall. 

I am hidden in the bathroom 

afraid to move in the culmination of your vision; 

trapped between tub and mirror 

is a burning mirage clearly 

it is your face, laughing and lit 

in 1940; winding like a casual wind 

of fall leaves against grey background; 

it is your graduation picture; 

graduation, graduation, the echo fades like 

my smile against the tile. I am not you. 

And I am sorry. 

I move from the bathroom past 

the klieg lights o{ your rhinestones, the dozen red roses 

slashed across your lips; 

I join the audience 

and watch you 

but you are not aware 

and you do not 

notice that in the end I am frightened. 

I cannot clap; I cannot prolong the applause. 

Rosemary Klein 





POETRY 





WHAT I NEED 



WIDOW 



I pick up the down pillow 

fluff it 

put it down 

pick it up again 

my mind on last night 

the voices 

the anger and tears 

I wait for his call 

know 

when it comes 

and he rattles his list 

of complaints 

that night will begin again 

What I need is 
a compliment 
something really nice 
said to me 
to plump me up 
the way I do 
the down pillows 
before someone 
flattens them again 

Sue Saniel Elkind 



first it's like walking 
thru winter you 
see a chair but 
you see it thru 
a blur forget 
what to do in the 
morning how to 
lie down at night 

the leaves push 
under the door and 
you don't see them 
feel the cat slide up 
and down your leg 
where nothing 
else will the 

rest of your life 
is like a hill of ice 
and you're wearing 
ice shoes 

lyn lifshin 



DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE 

The new term seems too mild, somehow; 

It does not match that scalpel's edge, divorce. 

That's a cut, blood spurting, 

A chasm earthquake— ripped between flesh and flesh. 

Dissolution is what sugar cubes do 

In the rain, a mild melting 

Without color or character. 

And yet 
That may be just the word to use 
For this, where each day makes less 
By imperceptible amounts the sweet taste 
Of love. Erosion of marriage 
Might be better still. Mild-mannered water 
Will do it every time, drop by drop, 
Till even the stones of the temple are worn away. 

Lisa Yount 



12 




HOMAGE TO SAPPHO 



Janine Canan 



Sappho looks up. She's angry about the 
myths, "small and dark with unshapely 
wings", that wish to enclose her name. 
But she laughs, glowing like the even- 
ing. A pink and orange smile crosses 
the sky. She touches her wrinkles- 
warm like the sand, like the hillsides of 
Lesbos where bright oleander gush from 
the gullies, fingers of lavender and 
fragrant thyme. She touches those dry 
roads and sees herself strolling in a dus- 
ty dream, the seven-string lyre hanging 
at her side. Or weaving lithe as summer 
grass in the open square, song rising 
ike a nightingale from the droning 
plane tree, where children scream and 
old men grimace. 

A terror grips her. Is she that woman 
who runs after Phaon, tiny terrified 
man, to fling herself from White Cliff 
into Aegea's sparkling blue arms? Is she 
the midget statue with the one wing; 
the one whose face is broken off; or the 
oiled white Romantic marble? In truth 
a strong swimmer, she dives and frolics 
like a dolphin, large head shining at 
the surface, shadow dodged by schools 
of flickering fish. Rules have not 
harmed her festive face. Her voice, rich 
and resonant, knows every stone and 
hollow of the scale. A natural traveller, 
she loves the warm air of the islands, 
smelly with vegetables and flowers. But 
she is banished from her home. 
Churchmen burn her manuscripts in 




Constantinople, would have burned 
her at the stake, but she escapes. Mum- 
mies sleep in the rags of her poems. 
The red hydria, decorated with her fine 
dreaming face, stands empty. 

She married, they say, was wealthy, 
and bore a daughter. But she can 
scarcely remember. They say she was a 
priestess, "holy and pure." But she 
remembers sitting in the temple dark: 
she listens. When the girls rush in like 
winds with their urgent wishes, she 
kneels and adores. They say she wor- 
shipped Aphrodite, and perhaps that is 
true. For there is one brown arm, warm 
and trembling, that pleases her as no 
other. Over it she runs her lips, night 
after night, to learn forever its familiar 
exquisite shape. Words, certain 
syllables, burning so powerfully in her 
mind no others can approach them. 
Alone she descends in the earth's deep 
lips, her bare foot gleaming. And at 
dawn her heart is filled with poems. 

Sappho lowers her head, pale behind 
the slate-blue mountains. Gulls glide in- 
to the harbor, where her voice is 
lapping at the shore. Along the 
promenade couples preen and babble in 
a different Greek. In the courtyard two 
peacocks sigh in stone. The streets and 
ibraries o( ancient Eressos, the scrolls, 
ie buried under hills of crushed pot- 
tery, mosaicked in sand. Toward the 
on fish dive into the sea. 




CRITICISM-LITERARY 




SAPPHO 



610 B.C. 



Judging even from the mutilated fragments fallen within our reach from the broken altar of 
her sacrifice of song, 1 for one have always agreed with all Grecian tradition in thinking 
Sappho to be beyond all question and comparison the very greatest poet that ever 
lived.-ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE. 



ODE TO APHRODITE 




H* 



Deathless Aphrodite, throned in flowers, 
Daughter of Zeus, O terrible enchantress, 
With this sorrow, with this anguish, break my spirit, 
Lady, not longer! 

Hear anew the voice! O hear and listen! 
Come, as in that island dawn thou earnest, 
Billowing in thy yoked car to Sappho 
Forth from thy father's 

Golden house in pity! ... I remember: 
Fleet and fair thy sparrows drew thee, beating 
Fast their wings above the dusky harvests, 
Down the pale heavens, 

Lighting anon! And thou, O blest and brightest, 
Smiling with immortal eyelids, asked me: 
"Maiden, what betideth thee? Or wherefore 

Callest upon me? 
"What is here the longing more than other, 
Here in this mad heart? And who the lovely 
One beloved thou wouldst lure to loving? 

Sappho, who wrongs thre? 

"See, if now she flies, she soon must follow; 
Yes, if spurning gifts, she soon must offer; 
Yes, if loving not, she soon must love thee, 
Howso unwilling . . ." 

Come again to me! O now! Release me! 
End the great pang! And all my heart desireth 
Now of fulfillment, fulfill! O Aphrodite, 
Fight by my shoulder! 

(translated from the Greek by William Ellery Leonard) 






FICTION 





PLAYING POST OFFICE 
Lisa Ruffolo 

I decided to take a walk after my mother's 
funeral. While rose leaves blew about the 
cemetery, sticking to headstones, and distant 
relatives wiped sweat and tears from their faces, I 
slipped away and headed for the park. 

I walked the three miles in flimsy sandals and let 
a strong steady wind tangle my loosely braided 
hair. I passed houses where whistling men in 
Bermuda shorts hosed down little patches of 
lawn. Cutting through alleys, I saw summer- 
tough kids splashing in backyard pools, picking 
tiny green apples from shivering trees, and 
bouncing rubber balls off garage roofs. 
Everywhere, I heard the drone of lawn mowers. 

At the edge of the park, 1 took off my black 
linen coat and tossed it into a wire trash can as 
if it were a basketball. Then I took off my san- 
dals and rubbed my swollen feet. The leather 
had left red crisscrossed impressions in the skin. 
I strolled along, grass brushing my ankles, and 
looked for the peeling green bench near the 
swings. I thought of this particular bench as my 
own; I had been sitting on it in the evenings for 
the past few weeks, ever since my mother's 
illness forced her into the hospital. Before that 
we led a quiet life together, protecting each 
other. I went to school and told her selected 
news of the world; she worked at a department 
store and bought me sale items. We liked the 
same television programs. When she first grew 
sick, I dropped out of school to care for her. It 
was then that I began to visit the park and look 
for my special bench. While my mother and I 
lived together, it was unusual for me to insist on 
anything; but afterwards, I soon began to see the 
value in objects you could count on. I could 
always count on the bench. 

Sometimes however, before a rainstorm for ex- 
ample, the park rangers would stack my bench 
near the pavilion, along with all the other park 
benches. Then I'd have to sort through them pa- 
tiently until I found it. I'd quietly unstack all the 
benches piled on top of mine, and drag it 
through the grass to its proper place by the 
swings. 

The day of my mother's funeral, I found the 
bench where I had left it. I settled myself down 
and began to watch. All of my favorite 
characters were there, clustered under the trees. 
Rita and Johnny seemed upset. Rita was tight- 
lipped and stiff, and her golden crucifix glinted 
in the late afternoon sun. Johnny moved his 
arms in wide arcs through the air, pleading and 



explaining. It was always the same: a kiss at 
dusk would end it, and they would link arms, 
coo and flirt, sauntering down a dirt path. 

But tonight Rita was crying, her face stained 
with pale streaks of tears, and Johnny onlv sat 
and picked at the grass, talking quietly, shrug- 
ging his shoulders. There was no reconciliation. 
Probably joined the army or lost his dishwashing 
job, I thought. Then the Bakers and their 
children tumbled by. Mrs. Baker's stomach 
swelled under her flowing paisley shift, and 
diapers spilled out of her oversize straw handbag. 
She waved to me as she trundled by. The Baker 
children, dressed in blue jeans and baseball 
jackets, scrambled onto the swings and squeaked 
down the slide, some on their stomachs, some 
on their heels or butts. Mr. Baker smoked a 
cigarette and yelled at the kids to stay away 
from the streets. Mrs. Baker sat on the edge of a 
picnic table and pushed her thin brown hair 
back with her fingers. 

On a wobbly card table under the trees, three 
people played canasta and sipped iced tea. They 
sat on bright green aluminum lawn chairs. Mr. 
Dodson, an old man with a thin leathery face, 
raised his wrinkled hand to his straw hat, swat- 
ted his bare bony knee, and slapped his cards 
down in front of the chattering Franklin sisters. 
They both wore pale, polka-dotted crepe dresses 
and I could see their nylon hose rolled up just 
above their knees. After Mr. Dodson claimed a 
pile of toothpicks as his kitty, I heard him talk 
of his upcoming marriage. He was seventv-eight 
and marrying again, moving out to Arizona with 
his sixty-five year old bride. The Franklin sisters 
tittered, and coyly patted their tangled hair. 

I leaned back in my bench and signed indulgent- 
ly. Suddenly very weary, I closed mv eyes and 
rubbed my temples with mv fingertips. An image 
o( mv mother bubbled up. I could see her sitting 
at our white kitchen table, blowing cigarette 
smoke and laughing into the phone. I could see 
her trying to steer an old bicycle through subur- 
ban streets, balancing a bag of groceries in one 
hand. I was afraid things would collapse without 
her. My father had died when I was very young 
and mv mother brought me up alone, always 
promising that no matter what happened, she 
would always be there. Her assurances soothed 
me, and I had a happy, easy childhood. She- 
taught me how to find a husband: persistence, 
she said. When you grow older, and you start to 
date, you will learn that it is good to be patient 
and persistent. As I grew older and my mother 
grew sicker, I understood that the practice ol 
this lesson would have to be delayed, ~\nd so, ex- 





F I C T / O N 





cept for a few brief affairs, I entered adulthood 
as a romantic novice. 

As it grew dark, I rubbed my bare shoulders to 
keep warm and suddenly remembered cleaning 
out my mother's closets and drawers when she 
had first grown ill. I had found an embroidered 
wool shawl wrapped in disintegrating tissue 
paper, a collection of chipped, sculpted jade 
jungle animals, and soiled pink toe shoes in the 
bottom of a cedar chest. I had never seen any of 
these objects before. In a dresser drawer, under 
garter belts and girdles, I found an old can of 
Burma Shave and three mismatched cufflinks 
rolled into a black sock. When I shook the can, 
gray flecks of shaving cream sputtered out. I put 
all of these things into a large shopping bag and 
stored them in my room while my mother was 
in the hospital. She had always promised me a 
dowry. 

Shivering now on the park bench, I watched 
Rita and Johnny finally surrender and kiss each 
other sadly. They walked off together, Rita's 
head on Johnny's shoulder, and stroked one 
another's knuckles. Mr. Dodson folded up his 
card table and stored it in the trunk of his 
Plymouth, then lurched off with the Franklin 
sisters. After Mr. Baker whistled sharply bet- 
ween his teeth to signal an end to his children's 
play, I strapped on my sandals and headed for 
home. 

Even though it had been weeks since my mother 
had actually lived there, our house seemed dif- 
ferent now that she was gone. The refrigerator 
buzzed loudly in the kitchen. Lamps took an ex- 
tra second to light up after I flicked them on. 
Bills and newspapers fell off of the tables. I went 
to the telephone and unplugged the cord. I was 
glad to be rid of the phone. I had stopped 
answering it in the early summer, when I 
thought the hospital would call with news of my 
mother's death. If I was making myself a sand- 
wich or heating a pot of coffee and the phone 
rang, I'd go right on with the sandwich or cof- 
fee, as casual as I could be. I got so good I wasn't 
even sure I heard it when it rang, shrill and 
loud, and soon the calls dwindled off. My 
mother learned to call me in code, so I had kept 
it plugged in for her. Now I only had to use it in 
emergencies. 

That night, I sat by the kitchen window and 
watched flying ants swarm on the lighted screen. 
I poured salt on the white formica table and 
divided the little piles with my finger, tracing 
stars and crosses in the crystals. Wheezing slight- 
ly, I found an old fan in the back closet and set 
it in the doorway, then turned it on. Air condi- 



tioning irritated my sinuses. Later, I flipped 
through magazines and drew pictures of animals 
in the margins. When the sun came up, I made 
myself a thermos of iced tea and tried to smoke 
some cigarettes. Coughing, I headed back to the 
park. 

Most of that week was like that: sleepless nights, 
pastoral days. It was only in the park that I felt I 
could breathe. But it was more than that; I 
knew that if I stayed there long enough, I would 
come to realize what I should do next. I went to 
the park everyday to reminisce and daydream 
and wait for clues. 

It was during one of my afternoon reveries that I 
remembered Gerard. We had had a brief affair 
while he was going through the rigors of divorce. 
He suddenly stopped calling me in early May, 
but I was at the hospital with my mother in 
those days, and hardly noticed that he was 
gone. Now I remembered the one or two nights 
that we sat up, huddled together in the 
candlelight, and talked about mysticism and in- 
explicable coincidences. He did tests with play- 
ing cards and investigated possible UFO 
sightings. I knew he would understand what I 
was going through; he could tell me how to wait 
for signs. I found a crumpled handbill in a circle 
of bushes, smoothed it out on my lap, and 
decided to write him a letter. 

I am going crazy with having to talk to you, I wrote 
to him. I hear chimes in my sleep, see needles in the 
clouds, feel the cold drool of ice on my toes. I 
thought that sounded pretty good, urgent and 
poetic. When the rumble of dreams has quieted, and 
I jerk myself to wakefulness each morning, slowly the 
fuzz clears, and, bright and shiny like silver insects, 
comes this churning desire to talk to you. I decided 
not to tell him about my mother's death or that 
I really hadn't slept in little over a week. We 
could talk about that when we got together. 
Along the borders of the handbill, I printed out 
my phone number and hours I would have the 
phone plugged in. I told him to use a special 
code— one short ring, then a series of long 
ones— when calling me. I put the letter into an 
envelope and drove slowly in the early morning 
fog to his house, wanting to be sure that he 
would get it that day. I placed it flat on his 
doormat, thinking he couldn't miss it there. 

When I received no response from Gerard, I 
rechecked his address in the phone book. I had 
not made a mistake. Maybe the letter blew 
away, I thought. 

I took my bicycle to the store and hunted the 
produce aisles for his favorite fruit, then hurried 





FICTION 





over to his house before he got home from his 
parapsychology work. Drawing tools out of my 
leather purse, I drove a nail through the thick 
leaves of the pineapple and hung it on his door. 
A sap as thick as butterscotch dripped from its 
pulp. Three amber pearls formed on the wood 
and shook lazily when I wrote a note on the 
door and stuck it between the pineapple leaves. 
It was the same kind of thing— an urgent 
message and a phone number. I slipped a 
notepad back into my purse and cycled back 
home. 

After four days and no word from him, I began 
to get frantic. I went back to his house to see if 
the pineapple was gone. Only its amber juice 
giisted on the door. If the pineapple was gone, I 
thought, why hasn't he called? Puzzled, I sat 
down on his steps and took out my notebook 
and pen. Dear Gerard, I write, I am afraid of the 
summer. The wind in my hair leaves me numb and 
crazed. Slashes of sunlight poke at my eyes, and they 
are like raw eggs— they crack and bleed when I poke 
them. I try hard to stay away from mirrors, but we 
click together like magnets. As I finished the letter, 
I remembered that Gerard was slightly famous, 
having appeared on local talk shows as a UFO 
expert. He was a handsome, tall, blond man, 
and his quiet passion and firm belief in another 
world gave him a kind of charisma. Maybe he 
thinks I'm some kind of fanatical follower, a 
bothersome groupie, I thought. Of course. I went 
to the drugstore and bought him a little plastic 
model space craft. I don't care about these 
things, I wrote on the box. I only care about 
you. I wrapped the package and letter in brown 
paper and sent them to him, through United 
Parcel. He was never home when I passed down 
his street, and he never called. 

I actually did call him myself the day I thought I 
saw him in a shopping center. I was buying 
envelopes in a stationery store when I spied a 
blond man looking through birthday cards on a 
rack. A fourth-of-July mobile obscured his face, 
but when I saw a flying saucer on his T-shirt, I 
was sure it was Gerard. I followed him out of 
the card shop and through the crowds in the 
shopping mall. I nearly caught up to him on the 
escalator in Gim-bel's, but lost him among the 
appliances. I searched through the power tools 
and home furnishings, then gave up. I went back 
to the stationery store and bought a card from 
the rack he had been looking at. When I got 
home, I mailed it to him. Then, because I had 
forgotten exactly what he looked like, I studied 
his picture again in my newspaper clippings. 
Later, I called his number, to see if he made it 
home, and listened to the phone ring and ring. 



Like me, he probably didn't want to be bothered 
with the telephone, and so I gave up trying to 

call. 

A short time after that, I sat on the damp stone 
ledge outside his office building. The sun glared 
off my bracelets and rings, and the wind riffled 
the papers in my lap. I checked to see that all of 
my mother's dowry was in the shopping bag at 
my feet. When I heard a high, shrill whistle, a 
rush of people rolled out of the doors. I checked 
my watch and sat very still, anxiously shredding 
the corners of my letters. I studied each tall 
blond man that came out of the building, but 
could not find Gerard in the crowd. Thinking 
he could have dawdled, I waited until the 
janitors locked the building for the night. I was 
getting desperate. It seemed as if a month had 
passed since I last slept; my eyes were cracked 
and sore around the edges. When the streetlights 
first started to glow, I left the ledge and walked 
across the bridge, throwing my letters and 
jewelry in the dark lake. I later sent Gerard a 
detailed list estimating the worth of the dowry 
and hoped he was a practical man. 

The next day, I decided to return to the park. 
There I found the peeling green bench where I 
had left it. I considered it a good omen to find 
the bench in its spot by the bushes bordering 
the pond. Now it was really time to find Gerard. 
I was growing so thin that I had to wear old 
blouses from my pre-teen days. I wondered what 
kind of food Gerard liked. I remembered that he 
ate cold peas on the nights I was with him. That 
would never fatten me up. 

I sat back in the bench and tried to think. I saw 
Rita and Johnny crouching in a sandbox. It had 
only been a couple of months since I last saw 
them quarreling in the park, but Rita's striped 
smock already hid her blossoming pregnancy. 
Maybe now she and Mrs. Baker could get to 
know one another, I thought, as the whole 
Baker clan wheeled by on tandems. Mrs. Baker's 
knees bumped her belly as she struggled along 
behind her husband, who hollered out directions 
to his children in front of them. Looking around 
to the other benches, I noticed the Franklin 
sisters fanning themselves with newspaper-, 
seated next to two new beaux. All four wore 
straw hats and seemed to be plaving some kind 
of word game. When I inquired, they told me 
Mr. Dodson had already left for Arizona. 

I opened my purse and flipped through extra 
copies of the letters I had been writing to 
Gerard. I hadn't sent him all o( them, only the 
better ones. I was sure that he liked good 
writing. In one of the newspaper photographs. 





FICTION 





he was holding a copy of The New Yorker. I 
composed a whole series of letters in the park 
that day as I watched leaves and bits of colored 
paper float on the brown water of the pond. I 
decided to tell him all about my mother, how 
her death had changed things in me, made me 
more persistent. When I got home, I leafed 
through a dictionary to check all of the spellings 
and practiced reading the letters out loud to get 
the rhythm right. 

Dear Gerard, please read this letter through to the 
end. Out on the streets, a fine drizzle is misting from 
the sky. It hangs there like a sheet of ice. I scratched 
words into its surface. It melts before you get them. 
You find the words anyway. They rush out of your 
faucets and stream from your shower. When you 
flush the toilet, they gurgle and spill on the tiles. 
Listen to the water. 

Dear Gerard, where are you when I need you? I 
have made campfires outside your door, planted 
stones of turquoise and jade in the ground around 
your walk. I folded this letter and threw it in the 
lake. The words bled and ran together; they are 
jumbled and make no sense. I can't help it. God 
is not on my side. I haven't been to confession 
in ten years, and my mother is dead. She was 
my ticket to heaven. 

Dear Gerard, I am going crazy with having to talk 
to you. Please, please, we must get together before 
my stomach ruptures. It drains golden bile incessant- 
ly. I am trying to purify myself for you. I light 
candles in your memory every night. 

After what seemed months and seasons, I 
thought about giving up on the letter writing. 
Maybe he just doesn't have time to read, I 
thought. But I had to get in touch with him 
somehow; I hadn't slept for a full night since the 
day before my mother's funeral. I had never real- 
ly become comfortable with not sleeping— it 
made the days stretch on and on like miles of 
slow river water. Still, I had accepted it and ex- 
pected that some day I would find time to sleep. 
I liked to write the letters to Gerard at night. It 
was a new abstinence from food that worried 
me. The thought of food simply made me ill. 
Bread crumbled in my mouth and I had to spit 
it out because it was so dry. I decided I would 
try to call him again, only this time, I would use 
a new strategy. 

I bought a mask at the Salvation Army retail 
store and wore it to the library. I didn't think 
anyone would recognize me there. I dialed his 
number nervously on the pay phones. A woman 
answered. I went back to the Salvation Army 
and returned the mask, explaining it was defec- 
tive. I tried the phones again. 



This time he answered. I whistled softly into the 
mouthpiece and listened to his voice as my heart 
thumped weakly in my chest. He sounded inno- 
cent, unruffled as he asked, "Hello, hello, hello?" 
until I think he finally realized it was me, and 
hung up with a grunt. 

It was a pity I returned the mask, because Mrs. 
Baker and one of her brood saw me walking out 
of the library and, after staring at me for a full 
minute, recognized me with a shriek. In a mo- 
ment, she was upon me, smoothing down my 
hair and asking me what was wrong, I looked 
like a corpse. I quickly glanced at her, surprised 
that she recognized me. When she tried to slide 
a piece of striped candy between my lips, I 
pushed her arm away and asked her to help me 
find Gerard. She took me to the hospital, smug- 
gled in my notebooks and pens, and promised to 
bring Gerard to my room. 

The day he finally came was a beautifully burn- 
ing day in autumn. I had been eating and sleep- 
ing regularly for a few weeks, although I hadn't 
spoken to anyone since I was first checked in. I 
had even made some friends. Shanna, an obese, 
red-headed Irishwoman, taught me Gaelic riddles 
and joked about her suicide attempt. Stanley 
and KC, two black Vietnam veterans, played 
Monopoly and Risk at a table across from my 
bed. Once in a while, KC would start to twitch 
and go blank in the face. Then Stanley would 
run and get the Lithium and help him swallow 
the pill, holding a glass of water to his lips. 
Shanna thought there was something fishy going 
on between the two of them, but they seemed 
sweet and brotherly, and Stanley combed my 
hair for me once in a while, so I liked them 
both. And there was Trina and Katy and Jojo 
and Willy: I never had so many friends in my 
life. They all tried to get me to laugh or sing or 
say something, but I was waiting for the right 
time. 

So when Gerard finally arrived that fall morn- 
ing, I knew it was the right time. And when he 
came up to me in the day room and smiled 
awkwardly, I thought surely that I would speak 
then. But I just looked up at him and returned 
his awkward smile. I had nothing to say. He 
looked shorter and darker to me and I wasn't 
even sure it was really Gerard until I read his 
identification badge clipped to his pocket. I 
waited for the nurse to lead him out of the room 
before I said, "I was probably just wasting my 
time." Shanna laughed loudly and Stanley 
crowed while Trina ran to get a doctor. He 
found me throwing my notebooks away. I 
turned to him and said, "I would like to be 
released." It was only a matter of time before 





F 1 C T I O hi 





they let me return to my mother's grave to say 
goodbye. 

When I went back to the cemetery, I carried the 
jade animals and silk toe shoes with me. It was a 
cool morning, and I wore my mother's em- 
broidered wool shawl around my shoulders. I 
thought at first that I would bury everything 
with her, then reconsidered and decided it 
would be more appropriate to store them with 
the shaving cream and cufflinks. I did dig a hole 
for the letters, and even placed them down in 
the moist dirt. But I changed my mind again at 
the last minute, and pitched them into a wire 
trash can instead. 

Later that fall, I sold the house and moved to an 
apartment. I continued to take my customary 
evening walks. Back in the park, Johnny held 
Rita's hand as she waddled past the swings. He 
cut his hair, wore button-down shirts and look- 
ed years older. Mrs. Baker discreetly nursed her 
newborn in the station wagon while her other 
children skittered through fallen leaves and chas- 
ed sailing footballs. She slipped me paper bags 
filled with cheese sandwiches and fried chicken 
wrapped in foil when her husband wasn't look- 
ing. I received an invitation to the Franklin 
sisters' double wedding and shopped for an ap- 
propriate dress after work. On weekends, I chat- 
ted briefly with Gerard's new wife when I saw 
her with the other pregnant women in the park. 
She told me that Gerard gave up his indepen- 
dent research to take a position with the govern- 
ment. I told her that I had a new job as a local 
correspondent for a major magazine. When she 
spoke out strongly about local issues, I encourag- 
ed her to write letters to the editor. 



19 





FICTION 






TYING MAW'S QUILT 

Colleen Tracy 

One summer day in 1935, Esther and Maw were 
going to tie a quilt they were making. Vic was 
hanging around the house, so it must have been 
a July day when the corn was laid by and the 
oats weren't ripe yet and it was too hot to fish. 
But Maw decided it was as good a day as any to 
do the job. 

It was a necessity quilt that they spread out on 
the livingroom floor; the front invented from 
scrap ends left over from Esther's dressmaking 
ventures; the back from flour sacks, boiled, then 
bleached in the sun; the batting from another 
quilt whose covering had worn out. 

The quilts Esther and Maw made weren't works 
of art; they weren't the painstakingly, pieced-by- 
hand, double wedding rings or Bethlehem stars, 
hand quilted on a frame with eight-to-the-inch 
running stitches that the neighbors packed in 
cedar chests and displayed when company came 
but seldom used. Maw had no time or inclina- 
tion to make such quilts. Maw's quilts were stur- 
dy, yarn-tied affairs, checkerboard or crazy quilt 
patterns, relatively quick to make and in great 
demand on winter nights when the fires, so 
carefully banked, still burned out before morn- 



ing. 

This day, as soon as chores were done, the two 
women spread newspapers over the rug in the 
livingroom, smoothed out the backing laid the 
wool batting over that, and finally the top. 
Esther had spent most of yesterday pressing flat 
the myriad seams of that top with sad irons, 
running between the kitchen, where the irons 
were heating on the cookstove, and the din- 
ingroom, where the ironing board had been set 
up. All the while she had to stoke the fire, 
because Maw was working in the garden. It took 
the concentration of an alchemist to juggle those 
several irons to the right temperature. Oh, how 
the sweat had rolled down her face! In the end, 
she'd been too exhausted to help with the milk- 
ing and had laid on the cot on the porch, a wet 
cloth over her aching head. 

But, today, they'd finish the quilt, or at least get 
all the ties in and the binding pinned on. The 
two women, on hands and knees, starting in the 
middle of the quilt, ran long basting stitches to 
the four corners, then across and lengthwise. 
When the three layers were welded together, 
they began to insert the yarn ties at the corners 
of each square. 

The repetitious hand movements, the morning 
coolness (for the sun had not gotten around to 
the livingroom windows yet), and the sense of 
accomplishing something put the women in a 
pleasant mood. But neither Maw nor Esther 
were used to sitting on the floor, and groaned 
ruefully when they shifted positions. 

When they had spread the quilt parts over all 
the open space on the livingroom floor, they 
had left Vic in the diningroom drinking coffee 
and reading his Actual/Factual/True Detective 
magazines. Now he stood in the doorway, hands 
tucked in the back pockets of his bib overalls, 
watching them, a glowering expression on his 
face. After awhile Maw asked, "Do you want 
something?" 

"Well," he said, "I was going to sit on the porch, 
but I see a guy can't get through here." 

"Why don't you go out the kitchen door," 
Esther asked, smartly, "and walk around to the 
porch?" 

Vic turned on his heel, muttering under his 
breath. They heard the kitchen screen door slam 
and returned to their work, threading their dar- 
ning needles, making the vertical stabs through 





F 1 C T I O hi 





the three thicknesses of material, tugging the 
needle and yarn sharply, tying the square knots, 
a seemingly endless sea of knots. 

Sometime later, they heard Vic open the porch 
door and settle himself in the rocking chair. 
Every few minutes he got up, held open the 
screen, and spit his stream onto the grass. They 
knew he was in his grumbling bear mood. They 
knew if he'd had any money, he would have 
walked to town to dilute his boredom over the 
pool table. But there was no money until after 
the oats were harvested, and little then. 

The three mile walk to town was as nothing to 
Victor; he was so used to it. Once they'd had a 
1920 Buick; Paw had bought it; and though he'd 
never learned to drive it, he'd made sure the 
auto had been well kept up. But after Paw died 
in '23, Vic had sole care of it. When it was past 
repair, Vic, in a rage, ran it down the hill and 
into the lake; and there it sat. The tires and 
wooden-spoked wheels sank into the mud, the 
cloth top flapped in the wind for awhile, until 
piece by piece it flew away. Each year the old 
car sat lower in the water; eventually, it was on- 
ly a frame for the turtles to sun themselves 
upon; then this, too, crumpled into rust and 
disappeared. 

"When we gonna have dinner?" Vic stood in the 
doorway between the porch and livingroom, 
pocket watch in his hand. "It's 12:35, now." 

"Oh, dear," sighed Maw. "I wanted to finish this 
quilt before noon." 

"We've only got two rows of ties to go," said 
Esther. "It's a shame to stop." 

"Victor," said Maw, "would you start the meal, 
please? All you have to do is fry the bacon and 



potatoes. We'll come and dish up as soon as 
we're done, here." 

"Me, cook?" Vic asked, in a shocked voice. 
"You want me to cook dinner?" 

"Well, son, it would be a big help. There's cold, 
boiled potatoes in a bowl in the pantry and the 
bacon's in a crock in the cellar. Bring up a jar of 
beans and some sauce, too, while you're there." 

A pause ensued while Vic opened the screen to 
spit. The women knew he was thinking it over. 

"Okay," he said. "I'll do it this time, but don't 
think it's gonna be a habit." 

Esther and Maw exchanged grins and began ty- 
ing faster. They heard him enter the kitchen 
and start the fire in the range, bang the heavy 
frying pan on the stove, and clump down the 
stairs to the cellar. They became absorped in 
their work, again, until the odor of scorching 
potatoes jarred them like a nasty pin prick. 

Maw staggered to her feet, her knees stiff from 
the hours on the floor. She hobbled to the kit- 
chen, Esther following. There Vic was scraping 
with a table knife in the frying pan where six, 
large potatoes (he hadn't sliced them) were stuck 
fast to the bottom. In another pan, grease spat 
and bubbled around a few shrivelled slices of 
blackened bacon. Toward the rear of the red-hot 
stove, the coffee pot was boiling over. 

"Thank you, Victor," said Maw, in a carefully 
calm voice. "I'll take over." He stepped aside, his 
expression as placid as the summer day. 

"Did you finish your old quilt?" he asked. 

"Not quite," she answered, "but we decided to 
quit, anyway." 






21 



CRITICISM-LITERARY 



THE HEALING ART OF 
POETRY AS THERAPY 

Deborah Eve Grayson, C.P.T. 

Poetry as a therapeutic tool has been used since 
the days of Apollo, the Greek God of poetry 
and medicine, but in the past ten years or so 
poetry therapy gained major recognition as an 
essential dimension in the treatment of emo- 
tional disorders. Of course one need not be suf- 
fering from an emotional problem in order to 
receive the benefits of poetry therapy. The use of 
poetry can be beneficial to all people and on all 
levels. 

Poetry works so effectively and quickly because 
all people feel, but the ability to express those 
feelings can be threatening or frightening. Poetry 
guides the unconscious in bringing hard to ex- 
press or hidden feelings to the surface in a non- 
judgmental environment. The poem acts as the 
"understanding someone" to whom a person can 
relate. This is called the isoprinciple: a poem cor- 
responds to the emotion being expressed at a 
particular time. Through this technique, a per- 
son having difficulty in expressing an emotion 
relates to the poet and realizes that they are not 
alone in the way they feel. Thus alienation, so 
much a contributing factor to mental illness, is 
alleviated. The poem also provides a means for 
the person to objectify his feelings— begin talking 
about herself in an indirect way which opens the 
door to communication. Ultimately there is a 
resolution to the conflict. Through discussion of 
feelings, catharsis and self-realization take place. 

The type of poetry used corresponds to the in- 
dividual or group needs. With young children, 
nursery rhymes and children's songs as well as 
poetry by Shel Silverstein or Kenneth Koch 
might prove effective. Adolescents respond to 
popular songs about the difficulties of growing 
up. The elderly might relate well to patriotic or 
Broadway tunes or classics such as Shakespeare 
or Whitman — poets they might have studied in 
school. With elderly persons who are experienc- 
ing memory loss, it may slowly bring them back to the 
present. The type of poetry used is not as impor- 
tant as the feeling elicited: to reach into the well 
of emotion and bring it to the surface where it 
can be confronted. 

Poetry therapy is being used in hospitals, 
schools, prisons, halfway houses, drug rehabilita- 
tion centers, nursing homes, mental health 
clinics, as well as in private practice. Poetry 
breaks down communication barriers where 



other methods have failed. People who obtain 
better self-knowledge improve their total life- 
adjustment. Poetry therapy is used in group set- 
tings as well as individually and for the physical- 
ly and emotionally limited population, as well as 
"neurotic normals." 

What might one expect to see in a group poetry 
therapy session? This depends on the individual 
clients the techniques that the therapist might 
employ. 

While working at United Cerebral Palsy, some 
clients hinted at their fear of death — the loss of a 
parent, as well as their own deaths. Instead of 
running from the problem or sweeping it under 
the carpet, I devised a session to help bring these 
emotions to the surface. I began with quotations 
on the topic, some serious and others light in 
tone, but all served as "jumping off points" for 
further discussion. Examples: 
The goal of all life is death. 

If there's another world, he lives in bliss, 
If there is none, he made the best of this. 

Here lies my wife, 
here let her lie'. 
Now she's at rest, 
and so am I! 

The group began to talk about which quote or 
short poem impressed them and why. 
Everybody's ideas were heard and given a 
response. Some expressed their fears immediate- 
ly. Some began to cry because they had recently 
lost a loved one and had not yet been able to 
complete the grief process and accept the loss. 
All were able to identify with one another and 
asked if they could write a group poem. Every 
person offered a line to the poem until they felt 
it was complete. They decided to write their own 
epitaphs first: 

Here lies me, here lies I, 
I accomplished what I could, 
And I never said die. 

Here lies a man with a heart of gold, 
He helped other people 
in ways untold. 

Instead of the sadness that one might expect in 
such an exercise, I found the complete opposite. 
Their epitaphs revealed a sense of humor, feel- 
ings of self-worth, determination and achieve- 
ment. We explored the topic until the fears and 
confusion on death were alleviated to the point 
where normal life functions could begin again. 
Of course, it may often take several sessions to 
accomplish this, in which case other poems and 
therapeutic art forms are used. 



CRITICISM-LITERARY 



Sometimes clients bring in their own poetry to 
share with the group. It is not important how 
good the poem is or how grammatically correct. 
Again, the focus is on getting the emotion out 
and then working toward a resolution to the dif- 
ficulty. Usually a writer feels self-satisfaction 
when a poem is completed knowing something 
both tangible and important has been created. 
They have accomplished something worthwhile. 

I Am 

I am a toddler taking steps through life, 

I am a seed waiting to be watered so I can grow, 

I am a tank going wherever I want and no one can 

stop me, 

I am a fire burning inside, 

I am laughter - I come out when people least expect 

me, 

I am a star who's wandering far. 

Each line of the poem was discussed briefly. I 
would interject questions such as, "What makes 
you feel like a fire burning inside?" "What made 
you identify with the tank— who's trying to stop 
you?" "When was the last time you laughed?" 
etc. 

Another popular technique I have used is "I 
wish . . ." This was written by a young woman 
with a learning disability.: 

Help 

I wish I could be of help 
where help is needed sometimes, 
At school, at home, 
When things go wrong 
this is where help belongs. 

We all need to feel needed, loved and accepted 
for the unique individuals we are. Poetry therapy 
allows us to express and explore who we are and 
what our capabilities as productive human be- 
ings might be. It is through the road to the un- 
conscious that we begin to understand and 
know ourselves. Poetry is one of those special 
roads. 



YOUR HANDS 

Your hands are lace curtains 
on the window of my back 
fingers like the tide 
rolling toward my spine 
leaving tender tip prints 
in the sand of my skin 
as my back bows down 
to drink you in 

Deborah Eve Grayson 



23 



CRITICISM-LITERARY 



THE ASSOCIATION FOR POETRY 
THERAPY: A SUGGESTED 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 



1. Koch, Kenneth. I Never Told Anybody: 
Teaching Poetry Writing in a Nursing Home. 
New York: Random House, 1977. 

2. Koch, Kenneth. Rose, Where Did You Get 
That Red? Teaching Great Poetry to Children. 

New York: Random House, 1973. 

3. Koch, Kenneth, Wishes, Lies and Dreams: 
Teaching Children to Write Poetry. New 
York: Chelsea House, 1970. 

4. Harrower, Molly. Poetry as Therapy. 
Gainseville, Fla.: University of Florida, 
1972. 

5. Leedy, Jack, J., Ed. Poetry the Healer. 
Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1973. 

6. Leedy, Jack J., Ed. Poetry Therapy: The Use 
of Poetry in the Treatment of Emotional 
Disorders. Ibid. 

7. Lerner, Arthur, Ed. Poetry in the 
Therapeutic Experience. Pergamon Press, 
Inc. Fairview Park, Elmsford, N.Y. 10523, 
1978. 

8. Rubin, Rhea Joyce. BiblioTherapy 
Sourcebook. Oryx Press, 3930 E. Camelback 
Road, Phoenix, Ariz. 85018, 1978. 

9. Rubin, Rhea. Joyce. Using Bibliotherapy: A 
Guide to Theory and Practice. Ibid. 

10. Schloss, Gilbert. Psychopoetry: A New Ap- 
proach to Self Awareness Through Poetry 
Therapy. New York: Grosset ck Dunlap, 
1976. 

11. Silverstein, Lee M. Consider the Alternative. 
Compare Publication, 2415 Annapolis 
Lane, Suite 140, Minneapolis, Minn. 
55441, 1977. 



Associations and Groups 

A. The Association for Poetry Therapy, Bever- 
ly Bussolati, O.T.R. Secretary 1029 
Henhawk Road, Baldwin, New York 11510. 

B. Teachers &. Writers Collaborative, 186 
West 4th St. New York, N.Y. 10003. (Sup- 
plies curriculum material, pamphlets, 
newsletters— of particular interest: The 
Whole Word Catalogue.) 

C. The BiblioTherapy Discussion Group, an 
activity of the American Library Associa- 
tion is open to membership. For more in- 
fo, write: BiblioTherapy Discussion Group, 
Exec. Seer, ASLA/HRLSD, American 
Library Assoc, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, 
Illinois 60611. 

D. The BiblioTherapy Round Table, Arleen 
Hynes, Program Coordinator, 3217 N. Per- 
shing Drive, Arlington, Va. 22201. Pro 
ceedings: meetings 3, 4 &l 5 are available at 

50«, $3.50, respectively. 

E. In order to receive a complete bibliography 
of Poetry Therapy (book-length) you may 
write to Dr. Franklin M. Berry, Depart- 
ment of Psychology, Columbus College, 
Columbus, Georgia 31907. 

This introductory bibliography has been com- 
piled by Sherry Reiter, C.P.T. Director of Cer- 
tification, A.P.T., and Arleen Hynes, Director of 
BiblioTherapy Training Program, St. Elizabeth's 
Hospital, Washington, D.C. 



24 





PROFILE 



MERCY OTIS WARREN 

Alis Ellis 




Mercy Oris Warren 



The author wishes to express sincere thanks to 
Jim Laukes for piquing her curiosity about . . . 
Mercy Otis Warren 

Intellectual 

Correspondent 

Egalitarian 

Satirist 

Playright 

Political Activist 

Anti-federalist 

Historian 

. . . But what did she eat for breakfast? 

Barnstable, Massachusetts, 1728. 

On the Lord's day . . . 

If you worked or played games you were fined 15 
shillings. If you travelled you were fined 30 shill- 
ings. Presumably no fine was imposed for having 
babies on the Lord's day. Mercy Otis was born 
in a birthing room off a warm kitchen on 
September 25 of that year and for breakfast on 
that day she turned to her mother. 



How does one best write about a woman con- 
cupiscent for liberty, equality and knowledge— a 
woman who was involved with our own 
forebears over 200 years ago? With amazement, 
respect, and a straight forward approach used to 
capture the spirit of a revolutionary whose name 
deserves to be in boldface type in all of our 
American history books. Where best to publish 
said writing? In a creative woman's publication, 
since she was one, and as soon as possible— she's 
waited long enough. Why do it? Because the 
years have not changed the obscurity accorded 
women's accomplishments. To whom should the 
writing be addressed? 

Dear Mercy, 

It's so exciting to meet an inspiring role model, a 
new kindred spirit. Though things have changed 
some over the years, women are still relegated 
culturally and by law to assigned societal roles. 
Would that your friend Abigail Adams had 
pushed a little harder in her admonishment to 
her husband to "not forget the ladies" in our 
constitution! 

I've been reading your farce, The Group, two 
biographies of your life, and excerpts from your 
three-volume History of the Rise, Progress and Ter- 
mination of the American Revolution, Interspersed 
With Biographical and Moral Observations. 

There are many of us still who never travel far 
outside our home province, who juggle creativi- 
ty, learning and marriage and family respon- 
sibilities as a matter of course, and who yet 
endeavor to influence and incite change, as you 
did. It is exhilarating to have the historical 
silence broken, to meet you at last. There are 
those of us today who are finding, as you did, 
new potentials within ourselves during our mid- 
dle and senior years. 

Your biographers say that your plays were writ- 
ten to be read, were never produced, because of 
stringent blue laws imposed in Boston at the 
time. There were no theatres, they say. What i 
shame! Were I inclined toward theatre produc- 
tion I'd attempt to produce your plays in tribute. 
I understand, though, that your writings were 
printed in newspapers and distributed as pam- 
phlets and were very popular and avidly read 
and that your history sold very well indeed. 

I envied your friendships with Abigail Adams, 
Catharine MaCaulay, Hannah Winthrop, 
Elizabeth Adams . . . vour Plymouth fireside 
gatherings with John Hancock, Sam and John 
Adams, Jonathan Mavhew ... I commiserated 
with you in your family losses and personal 
disappointments ... in the plagiarizing ot vour 



PROF 



L £ 



works ... I exulted with you in your vindica- 
tions ... in your interactions with George and 
Martha Washington and Thomas Jefferson ... I 
admired, pictorially, your accomplished 
needlework, recognizing the meticulous hours 
spent over it ... I applauded your adherence to 
your beliefs, even in the face of alienation from 
treasured friends like John Adams ... I trembl- 
ed with you in the intransigence of having 
children living overseas, apart from you, in a 
time of war ... of being daughter, sister, wife, 
friend of people under warrant of the king ... I 
lauded your activism and alacrity throughout 
your long and always productive life . . . and 
most of all, your networking with and en- 
couragements to women— your mentoring. I 
quote directly your letter to a friend: 
"Dear Betsy, (you write) 

I dare say the good old sage you mention in support 
of your opinion would (with all his philosophy or 
stoicism) at any time gladly have exchanged his 
furious %antippe for a wise and judicious Cornelia, 
a constant and prudent Portia, or a gentle condescen- 
ding Octavia. But the recollection of these illustrious 
ladies naturally leads me to observe on that part of 
your letter in which you seem hurt by the general 
aspersions so often thrown on the understanding of 
ours by the illiberal part of the other sex. I think I 
feel no partiality on the female side but what arises 
from a love of justice, and freely acknowledge we too 
often give occasion (by an eager pursuit of trifles) for 
reflections of this nature. Yes, a discerning and 
generous mind should look to the origin of the error 
and when that is done I believe it will be found that 
the deficiency lies not so much in the inferior contex- 
ture of female intellects as in the cultivation of the 
mind in the early part of life; if it is neglected in 
either sex, we see ignorance, stupidity, and ferocity of 
manners equally conspicuous in both. 

It is my opinion that that part of the human species 
who think nature . . . has given them the superiority 
over the other mistake their own happiness when 
they neglect the culture of reason in their daughters, 
while they take all possible methods of improving it 
in their sons . . . 

The pride you feel on hearing reflections in- 
discriminately cast on the sex is laudable, if any is 
so. I take it, it is a kind of conscious dignity that 
ought rather to be cherished, for while we own the 
appointed subordination (perhaps for the sake of 
order in families) let us by no means acknowledge 
such an inferiority as would check the ardour of our 
endeavors to equal in all mental accomplishments the 
most masculine heights, that when these temporary 
distinctions subside we may be equally qualified to 
taste the full draughts of knowledge and happiness 



prepared for the upright of every nation and sex . . 
." (reference 2, PP 187-188.) 
The conditions for women in my century have 
improved somewhat, Mercy. We have suffrage. 
We attend school. We are more prominent in 
political office, business, the wage-earning 
workforce. We are less prone to think activism, 
fame and recognition unwomanly. But though 
the "temporary distinctions" have indeed subsid- 
ed, they are not obliterated. Our constitution 
does not yet "remember the ladies" and we often 
weary of the battle and don't conspire to use our 
votes effectively. Meeting a role model like you 
rekindles our spirit and forges and tempers our 
determination that it shall not be another 200 
years before equal rights become reality. 

It's been a pleasure to meet you, Mercy Otis 
Warren. I eagerly look forward to further perusal 
of your works, your life, your time. 
Respectfully, 

Alis Ellis 

References 

1) Adams, Charles E., editor, Correspondence Bet- 
ween John Adams and Mercy Warren, Arno Press, 

New York, 1972. 

2) Anthony, Katharine, First Lady of the Revolu- 
tion. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden 
City, New York, 1958. 

3) Fritz, Jean, Cast For A Revolution. Houghton 
Mifflin Company, Boston, 1972. 

Acknowledged published works: 

The Adulateur, A Tragedy. Pamphlet. First 
published in the Massachusetts Spy, 1972 

The Defeat, A Play. Pamphlet. First published in 
the Boston Gazette, 1773. 

The Group, A Farce. Pamphlet. Boston: Edes and 
Gill in Queen Street, 1776. 

The Blockheads: Or The Affrighted Officers, A 
Farce. Boston: Printed in Queen Street, 1776. 

The Motley Assembly, A Farce. Published for the 
entertainment of the curious. Boston: Nathaniel 
Coverly, 1779. 

"Observations on the New Constitution, and on the 
Federal Conventions. B;y a Columbian patriot. Pam- 
phlet. (Formerly attributed to Elbridge Gerry.) 
Boston: 1788. 

Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous. Boston: T. 
Thomas and E.T. Andrews, 1790. (Includes) 
"The Sack of Rome: A tragedy." "The Ladies of 
Castile: A tragedy." 

History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the 
American Revolution, Interspersed with Biographical 





PROFILE 





and Moral Observations. 3 vols. Boston: Ebenezer 
Larkin, 1805. 

Personal insights/historical notes: 

Mercy Otis Warren . . . 

As a child was taught by her uncle, Reverend 
Jonathan Russell, studied Pope, Dryden, Milton, 
Shakespeare, Raleigh and all current print 
materials. 

Third of 13 children (7 survived childhood), 
eldest girl. 

Was not excluded from gatherings when her 
father, presiding judge of the circuit court, open- 
ed his house to those who wished to talk politics 
and consult with him. 

Enjoyed a close companionship and intellectual 
comradeship with her brother James Otis 
(known as the patriot). 

Was frequently at Watertown during 1775 and 
1776 because her husband was speaker of the 
Massachusetts house and paymaster of the Ar- 
my. Mercy was hostess there to Benjamin 
Franklin, George and Martha Washington, 
General Charles Lee, General Gates, Mrs. Put- 
nam and others. She entertained in the house 
rented for council meetings and for her husband 
and other officials and visitors. 

Began "introductory observations" of her history 
at Watertown, finished and published in 1805. 

Stood on a hill with Abigail Adams and 
watched the British leave Boston without a fight. 

Rode with Martha Washington to see the 
burned ruins of Charlestown. 

Joined with her husband James and Abigail 
Adams and her children and others at Abigail's 
uncle's house in Boston for smallpox innocula- 
tion. Each patient was required to bring his own 
straw bed (later destroyed) two sheets, a counter- 
pane, 18 shillings a week for board, and a guinea 
for the doctor. Abigail also drove a cow into 
town. Here Abigail received a letter from John 



that "a resolution was passed . . ." (Our declara- 
tion of independence) 

Joined Martha Washington (who later stayed at 
Valley Forge too) in visiting the military camp at 
Watertown where the Washingtons and the 
Warrens exchanged dinner invitations. 

Kept in close touch with other women left alone 
by war, especially Abigail Adams and Elizabeth 
Adams (Samuel's wife), sending needles, cloth, 
shoes, back and forth in times of shortages. 

Brother Samuel Allyne Otis was secretary to the 
senate, administered the oath of office to George 
Washington; son James served on the American 
ship Alliance and lost a leg to the revolution; 
son Winslow (her favorite) was a wastrel and 
dandy for whom she entreated favors; son 
George died alone and far away in Maine. 

Wondered if writing in her styles was unseemly 
for a woman and needed (and got) much 
reassurance. 

Entreated John Adams in their very senior years 
to rescue the author of "The Group," which the 
Boston Athenaeum was attributing to Mr. 
Samuel Barrett. John wrote a personal certifica- 
tion that it was hers on the last leaf of the pam- 
phlet stored in that institution. 

Lost her eyesight, but retained her curiosity 
throughout her life - she would reread Newton, 
order a book on Hindu mythology, ask for a 
passionflower, turning winter into summer with 
a "glass house." 

Fought tyranny. Among her last words of advice 
to future generations: 

"The people may again be reminded, that the 
elective franchise is in their own hands; that 
it ought not to be abused, either for personal 
gratifications, or the indulgence of partisan 
acrimony." (Reference 3, P 321.) 

Imperfect, moralistic, human— in a grand man- 
ner. 

Mercy Otis Warren. 



:: 



BOOK REVIEW 



ONE WRITER'S BEGINNINGS 

by Eudora Welty 

Harvard University Press, 1984 

Carolyn Carmichael 

In April of 1983 Eudora Welty delivered three 
lectures to inaugurate the William E. Massey Sr. 
Lectures in The History of American Civiliza- 
tion at Harvard University. Whether or not to 
anyone's surprise— but certainly to the Harvard 
Press's gratification— this book, based on the lec- 
tures, is now a best seller. It is being lauded on 
the air, in journals, in ads, and all without this 
lady having been enticed onto the talk shows — a 
most unlikely possibility in any case. But do not 
be shy of the best seller label in this instance. It 
is a lovely book, in the quality of the writing 
and in the gently amused reticience with which 
the author tells the story of her life; to this 
reviewer it is most admirable, however, in the 
manner with which Miss Welty probes the 
sources of her art without a shadow or preten- 
tion. 

Eudora Welty is of course a famous writer of the 
"Southern School," author of many short stories 
and five novels. (The stories recently have been 
collected in one volume by Harcourt Brace 
Jovanavich.) To be a Southern writer is clearly 
to have an intense sense of place, of time and 
history, whatever latitude of style and content 
may be involved, and one wonders if this is 
becoming a vanishing possibility in America 
where our cities look and feel more and more 
alike and people drift among them. Eudora Wel- 
ty was born, grew up, spent most of her life and 
still lives in the family home in Jackson, 
Mississippi. The subject of the book truly is one 
writer's beginnings. We hear about the grand- 
parents and their forebears in Ohio and West 
Virginia, about the father and mother with their 
difficulties of temperament and strengths and 
then their deaths, and most of all about her 
childhood and youth with two younger brothers. 
It was a comfortably well-off family living in a 
capital city. 

The book begins charmingly with a recollection 
of sitting on the stairs, a very young child, put- 
ting on shoes while listening to an early morn- 
ing duet of whistling and song between mother 
in the kitchen and father upstairs. "Listening" is 
the key word, and she goes on to tell of how 
keenly she listened for stories coming out of the 
talks of older people. Not for some time did she 
realize that it was "the everyday lies and 
strategems" in this talk that were in fact the 



basis of the scenes she so loved to hear about. 
And then, she says, "My instinct— the dramatic 
instinct — was to lead me eventually on the right 
track for a storyteller: The scene was full of 
hints, pointers, suggestions, and promises of 
things to find out and know about human be- 
ings. I had to grow up and learn to listen for the 
unspoken as well as the spoken— and to know a 
truth, I also had to recognize a lie." This quota- 
tion is one of a few instances where the 
autobiographical narrative is interrupted by com- 
ment. It is her art to use incident and story, the 
specific rather than the general, to point the 
quality and direction of attention which, beginn- 
ing very early, formed the basis of her creative 
imagination. One might itemize as ingredients in 
the growth of a writer such things as reading, 
listening, watching, but this would mean little 
compared to what comes through so strongly in 
this book: the savoring, immediately and in 
memory, of quite ordinary experience. How this 
was transmuted into the ability to enter im- 
aginatively into the lives of a considerable range 
of created characters compounded of whatever 
bits and pieces of observation, bound together so 
that they are in turn knowable people, is not to 
be explained. Creation remains mystery. 

Nevertheless, reading the stories one would have 
to infer that behind the quietly and often 
humorously related experiences in this 
autobiography lay perceptions not explicated. 
There are hints, as in a passage Miss Welty 
quotes from one of her own early stories. A 
young girl is the subject: "When a person, or a 
happening, seemed to me not in keeping with 
my opinion or even my hope or expectations, I 
was terrified by a vision of abandonment and 
wildness which tore my heart with a kind of sor- 
row. My father and mother, who believed that I 
saw nothing in the world which was not strictly 
coaxed into place like a vine on our garden 
trellis to be presented to my eyes, would have 
been badly concerned if they had guessed how 
often the weak and inferior and strangely turned 
examples of what was to come showed 
themselves to me." And then there is this pro- 
vocative sentence from a late story called "No 
Place For You, My Love": "A thing is incredi- 
ble, if ever, only as it is told— returned to the 
world it came out of." Such untold things in 
their oddity, shame, perhaps horror, probably lie 
in everyone's memory. Miss Welty frequently 
drags them out of her characters. 

In the last chapter, called "Creating a Voice," 
Miss Welty essays some rather more analytic 
perceptions of herself as writer. She is insistant 



BOOK REVIEW 



that her characters are not portraits, or— except 
in the most minimal sense— projections of 
herself. "My temperment and my instinct had 
told me alike that the author who writes at his 
own emergency remains, and needs to remain, at 
his private remove. I wished to be, not effaced, 
but invisible— actually a powerful position." 
Retrospectively however she finds a partial iden- 
tity with one of the characters in "The Golden 
Apples" collection: "What I have put into her is 
my passion for my own life work, my own art. 
Exposing yourself to risk is a truth Miss Eckhart 
and I had in common . . . Not in Miss Eckhart 
as she stands solidly and almost opaquely in the 
surround of her story, but in the making of her 
character out of my most inward and deeply 
feeling self, I would say 1 have found my voice in 
fiction." (Interestingly, Miss Eckhart says almost 
nothing.) 

This last chapter is most eloquent in praise of 
memory— "our inward journey that leads us 
through time— forward or back, seldom in a 
straight line, most often spiraling." The great 
confluence that is the individual human memory 
is her most dearly regarded treasure in life as in 
work. 

The last sentences: "As you have seen, I am 
writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered 
life can be a daring life as well. For all serious 
daring starts from within." 




19 



REVIEW 



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* Su^us^^^L 



DENISE LEVERTOV 
READING/A REVIEW 

Margaret Brady 

She has been described as "a valiant fighter for 
peace, a staunch defender of the human race." 

Denise Levertov is a poet who voice rises up 
against the lunacy of nuclear war, the sadness of 
nature's destruction, the desolation of survival. 

"All good poetry is political," Levertov believes. 
Speaking recently for the Poetry Center's annual 
benefit reading at the School of the Art Institute 
of Chicago, Levertov was, indeed, her most cap- 



tivating when reading some of her latest 
works— "political" poems, poems about the 
things that concern her deeply. 
Things like the environment, the earth: "Isn't it 
we who brought this terror upon her?" 

Things like the "age of terror" we live in now: 

"Mother, father, I have longed for you. 

Now I see it is well you are dead. . . 

No pulsations of passionate rhetoric 

will suffice in this time. . . we stammer in 

stammering dread. . . 

Shall we— we and our kindred, 

animal, vegetable. . . 

Shall they, shall we by our own hand, 

undo our own being, their being?" 



REVIEW 



She is unrelenting in her condemnation of 
nuclear power and weaponry: 

"The Pentagon wants to know 

what a child can tell it: 

It hurts to burn. . . 

They're in hell, 

and they in it, 

dead in their lives. . . 

What can redeem them. 7 

What can redeem them? 

In 1940 Levertov wrote a poem about war 
("Listening to Distant Guns"), and she is still 
writing about the tragedy of military conflicts. In 
1982 she wrote "Thinking about El Salvador." 

"I have to keep updating it. Unfortunately, I 
would like to see it become obsolete," Levertov 
noted during her reading. 

But, unfortunately, writing like Levertov's will 
never become obsolete as long as there is horror 
in the world, in this "age of terror" we live in. 

And it is that dread, that terror about which 
Levertov writes most eloquently, especially in 
"Candles in Babylon," the title poem from one 
of her latest books: 

"Through the midnight streets of Babylon 
Between the steel towers of their arsenals, 
between the torture castles with no windows, 
we race by barefoot, holding tight 
our candles, trying to shield 
the shivering flames, crying 
'Sleepers Awake' 

hoping 
the rhyme's promise was true, 
that we may return 
from this place of terror 
home to a calm dawn and 
the work we had just begun." 

In the excerpt from "Mass for the Day of St. 
Thomas Didymus," Levertov writes again about 
the "terror": 

"We live in terror 

of what we know: 

death, death, and the world's 

death we imagine 

and cannot imagine, 
we who may be 
the first and the last witness. 

We live in terror 
of what we do not know, 
in terror of not knowing, 
of the limitless, through which freefalling 
forever, our dread 
sinks and sinks, 
or 



of the violent closure of all. 

Yet our hope lies 

in the unknown, 

in our unknowing, 

O deep, remote unknown, 

O deep unknown, 

Have mercy upon us." 

What better plea for peace, for saving the world 
from nuclear disaster could be found than in the 
lyrical verse of a poet like Levertov? And still, 
she is a poet whose vision stretches beyond the 
terror to a place where there is still hope— hope 
for a world where flowers can still grow, where 
people can live in peace. 

From "Beginners" (Dedicated to the memory of 
Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla), 

"But we have only begun 
to love the earth. 

We have only begun 

to imagine the fullness of life. 

How could we tire of hope? 

—so much is in bud. 

How can desire fail? 

—we have only begun 

to imagine justice and mercy 

only begun to envision 

how it might be 

to live as siblings with beast and flower, 

not as oppressors. 

... So much is unfolding that must 
complete its gesture, 
so much is in bud." 

We need voices like Denise Levertov's in this 
"age of terror" we're now moving through. 
Voices of hope, quiet voices that remind us of 
our common humanity, our common struggle 
for survival, and our need for peace. 





BOOK REVIEW 






A FEELING FOR THE 

ORGANISM: 

THE LIFE AND WORK OF 

BARBARA MCCLINTOCK 

by Evelyn Fox Keller 

W.H. Freeman and Co. 1983 



Carolyn Carmichael 

There is a great pleasure in reading this book— a 
double pleasure: that of learning something of 
the life of an extraordinary woman, and one of 
another sort, that of learning a great deal about 
the growth of the science of genetics which has 
been the larger part of the life of Barbara Mc- 
Clintock. For anyone interested in science, pro- 
fessionally or not, there is the further illumina- 
tion of what the author calls in her preface "the 
interaction — sometimes complex, always 
subtle — between individual creativity and com- 
munal validation." 

This last consideration, before Barbara McClin- 
tock won the Nobel Prize this year, was what led 
the author of this biography cum explanation of 
scientific method, to undertake the book. Evelyn 
Fox Keller is herself a rather extraordinary 
woman. She was trained in theoretical physics 
and molecular biology. She has worked in 
mathematical biology and in the history, 
philosophy, and psychology of science. She is 
professor of mathematics and humanities at Nor- 
theastern University and is well known for her 
contributions to Working It Out, a "seminal work 
on professional women." The right credentials, 
certainly, when accompanied by her sym- 
pathetic, imaginative intelligence. 

McClintock disparaged the idea that her life ex- 
perience could be of any particular value to 
women because she was too anomalous, too 
much a maverick. She had never married, never 
wanted to, and in old age could still not 
"understand" marriage, could not see why one 
should need to be committed to another person. 
This was only one aspect of her being "too dif- 
ferent." As an infant she already showed signs of 
being self-sufficient and as a child knew what 
she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it. 
Her parents, father a physician, mother a musi- 
cian, were independent-minded New Englanders 
with an unusual capacity for responding to the 
individuality and specific needs of their children. 
They did not permit homework and sometimes 
permitted long absences from school when there 





BOOK REVIEW 





seemed to be too much stress. Barbara's mother 
was perhaps concerned about her intensity and 
love of solitude but not about her being a tom- 
boy. However, she did balk at the idea of col- 
lege, fearing that the girl would become "a 
strange person, a person that didn't belong to 
society", perhaps a college professor. Keller also 
quotes McClintock as saying that during high 
school she had to think through "how I could 
handle my difference" and found it not easy. "I 
found that handling it in a way that other peo- 
ple would not appreciate because it was not the 
standard conduct might cause me great pain, but 
I would take the consequences... for the sake of 
an activity that I knew would give me great 
pleasure." And take the consequences she did, 
with great constancy throughout her life. Keller 
stresses two aspects of her character that were 
evident from the beginning and were at the root 
of her ability to lead the life she did: the capaci- 
ty to be alone and the capacity for total absorp- 
tion. 

Fortunately her father was in favor of college 
and she went to Cornell. It was heaven, she 
said, a marvelous time of making friends, having 
dates, being Freshman Women's class president, 
throwing herself into work. Probably the closest 
thing to "normal" life in her experience. She 
played tenor banjo with a jazz improvisation 
group. Nevertheless her "difference" reasserted 
itself when as a junior she was invited by a pro- 
fessor to take his graduate course in genetics. 
She knew that this was where she wanted to be 
and stayed. There came a group of young men 
(George Beadle among them) all fascinated by 
maize genetics. On the book jacket there is a 
picture of them with Emerson, the professor, all 
dressed for work in the corn breeding field— Mc- 
Clintock diminutive in knickers. It was a great 
time: within a few years McClintock wrote 
papers of fundamental significance to the field, 
was widely recognized as being most able— some 
thought her a genius— but when Beadle, Rhoads, 
and the others went off to become professors she 
stayed behind. For some time she was not con- 
cerned about career as such but there did come 
a time when she needed a job and there were 
problems. There were fellowships and then one 
five-year academic appointment with never a raise 
in rank. She was not good at undergraduate 
teaching, not interested in academic politics, in- 
different to rules and regulations and institu- 
tional comportment. Only her own work was 
important to her. She felt she had a choice bet- 
ween being "a lady or a maverick" so she was a 
maverick with a quick wit, a sharp tongue and a 
superior mentality; a combination that, along 



with her sex, was not to be readily accom- 
modated in academe in the mid '30s. 

It must be stressed that she was very highly 
esteemed by professionals in her field many of 
whom tried to help her find a place to work. In 
the early '40s she became president of the 
Genetics Society of America and the third 
woman ever to be elected to the National 
Academy of Science. In 1941 she was offered a 
place in Cold Spring Harbor which was en- 
dowed by the Carnegie Institution as the Station 
for Experimental Evolution, and is there still. 
Crowded with visiting scientists in the summer, 
cold and rather isolated the rest of the year, it 
proved to be a good place for her to work as she 
wanted to work. 

At this point biography, slim to begin with, 
becomes a strand in the history of genetics in 
the past forty years. Very briefly: genetic study 
had been based on cytology (the microscopic 
study of the cell) in drosophila, in maize, in 
bacteria; genes were postulated, the role of DNA 
determined, and then came the revolution of 
Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of 
DNA. Microbiology was born. The study of 
genetics shifted from the area of the naturalists 
and botanists to that of the chemists and 
physicists. The shift can be thought of as one 
away from qualitative study of individual sub- 
jects involving not only the morphology but the 
specific development of the organism to the 
quantitative techniques of mathematics and 
physics. Great things have been accomplished, 
as we all know, since the double helix model was 
demonstrated. A dogma developed: the genes 
strung like beads on the chromosome were 
unalterable— they could act but not be acted 
upon. McClintock stayed with the corn and 
cytogenetics. 

Increasingly isolated she worked for years on her 
most difficult and important experiments to 
prove the existence of "transposition" within the 
chromosome, meaning roughlv, that the posi- 
tions and activities of genes were subject to con- 
trol by factors within the cell. The implications 
of this were so contrary to the "dogma" and her 
experimental methods so tar outside the current 
mode that when she tried to present this work 
she was simply not understood at all. Why she 
was not comprehended is the matter of deepest 
interest to Keller as she explores aspects of the 
question: communication, the "wo: 
discourse that operate to shape the growth of 
specific areas of research by demarcating them 
from others." The discourse ol microbiology was 
far removed by this time from cytogenetics and 





BOOK REVIEW 





it is possible that McClintock did not work hard 
enough at making herself understood— her 
presentations were dense and very difficult to 
follow. But more to the point is the question of 
ways of knowing. McClintock knew every corn 
plant she grew as an individual, studied every 
kernal by seeing what was going on in it. She 
could teach a student to see as she saw but 
when this way of knowing was no longer the 
mode of her science, she could not verbally per- 
suade the scientific community of the truth of 
what she saw. Her lifelong dedication to 
"seeing", her flashes of intuitively seeing the pat- 
tern of the whole before actually being able to 
see the relation of parts, her "feeling for the 
organism" and how it grew, differentiated and 
adapted, placed her apart and called into play all 
her resources of autonomy, absorption and abili- 
ty to be alone. Validation of her theory of 
"transposition" came eventually from 
microbiologists when in the late '60s and 70s 
they were confronting more and more evidence 
that did not fit the model. This "second revolu- 
tion" in genetics is likely to have far reaching 
consequences in the study of evolutionary 
development. 

Just as I (the reviewer) was despairing of my 
ability to convey in a nutshell the intricate ex- 
citement of this complex story, The New York 
Review of Books (3/24/84) arrived and there was 
a superb review by Stephen Jay Gould. My im- 
pulse was to throw out this review and simply 
recommend that everyone read Gould. Not only 
does he have the expert ability of someone in- 
side the field of evolutionary biology to explain 
with brilliant concision the course between the 
first and second revolution in genetics, but he is 
highly sensitive to the particular kind of achieve- 
ment that McClintock's life is. The article is 
written with exhilaration. Read it. And of 
course the book. 

Keller heads her last chapter with a quotation 
from Pascal I can't resist repeating: "There are 
two equally dangerous extremes— to shut reason 
out, and to let nothing else in." 





CRITICISM-LITERARY 





BERNARD SHAW AS A 
WOMAN WRITER 

Eliza, Candida, and Joan 

Daniel Bernd 

Had George Bernard Shaw been a woman, she 
probably would have the reputation as the pre- 
eminent feminist writer in English. One can 
make this judgment because Shaw possessed at 
the highest possible level the capacity to create 
characters and put them in situations where 
they speak, act, and think for themselves, 
without being pushed around and formed into 
creatures who reflect the authors' conscious and 
unconscious preconceptions on how they should 
act. A work of art has a life of its own, and few 
writers and critics have understood that as well 
as Shaw. And life, of course, has an art of its 
own, an art which is inherently subversive, resis- 
tant to mandates, goals, objectives, structures, 
and formulas which violate the root ethic of 
human beings, an ethic that knows, without be- 
ing taught, that we must be treated as ends in 
ourselves, not as the mere means to someone 
else's ends. 

. . . the only real tragedy in life is the being 
used by personally minded men for purposes 
which you recognize to be base. All the rest is 
misery, slavery, hell on earth . . . 
It is her remarkable capacity for seeing into the 
true life of things that made it possible for Shaw 
to create women characters who, for the most 
part, are not a male playwright's notion of what 
women are or ought to be. That is, she was a 
true equalitarian as a writer. She treated 
everybody alike— even her imaginative creations. 
As she says, 

Not that I disclaim the fullest responsibility 
for . . . all of my characters, pleasant and 
unpleasant. They are all right from their 
several points of view; and their points of 
view are, for the dramatic moment, mine also. 
Her capacity to see the obvious when nobody 
had ever seen it before makes people very un- 
comfortable. Thus have arisen the crude and 
stupid dismissals of Shaw as some kind of 
supreme jokester, who was just being Irish. 

She is not even safe from her friends, or at least 
from those who are attempting to make money 
off her work. The record jacket of My Fair Lady, 
which shows Shaw dangling Henry and Eliza by 
puppet strings, is a supreme vulgarization of 
both Shaw and the true import of Pygmalion. 
Generations of actors and audiences have not 
been able to face the meaning of Pygmalion, and 



we could not expect Lerner and Lowe to do any 
better. Eliza does not want to marry Higgins at 
the end, refuses to be bullied by him, and will 
choose her own mate, thank you, and so much 
the worse for the audience's romantic expecta- 
tions. It is curious, and significant, that readers 
and theatre-goers steadfastly refuse to accept 
what the text of the play clearly says: that 
chivalry is a form of contempt, that Colonel 
Pickering's unwavering civility is a device to keep 
people in their places, that the price of liberation 
is a loss of control over the liberated's destiny, 
and that bedding the student, in or out of mar- 
riage, is not the male teacher's prerogative and 
reward. It is with great relief, therefore, that the 
audience can turn to M\ Fair Lady and away 
from Pygmalion and thus not be bothered by any 
considerations of equality. 

Shaw fought the battle all her life. She claimed, 
quite convincingly, that the playwright was the 
leading authority on sex appeal, and certainly 
there is no lack of sexually attractive women in 
her plays, but it is also clear that her women 
have to struggle free from the bonds of mere sex- 
uality in order to be taken seriously as fully 
realized human beings. (What's a pretty little 
thing like you doing worrying your head about 
things like war, politics, religion, or art?) 

One key to Shaw's work is the understanding 
that many of her women simply refuse to accept 
the role that others attempt to thrust upon 
them. Candida tires of being everybody's all pur- 
pose Earth Mother, and devastates her husband 
and her would-be lover by explaining to them, 
in a scene which borders upon psychological and 
emotional cruelty, that they both are posturing 
weaklings who could not be trusted out alone if 
she were not there to prop them up with illu- 
sions of competence. Candida understands that 
in her Edwardian world, an intelligent and vital 
woman with little formal education and no in- 
dependent means must be content to be the best 
mother and wife that she can be, but she is not 
above cracking the whip on the dumb males 
who idealize her. In other words, Candida is one 
of life's realists which, in Shaw's view, consists of 
about two percent of the population. 

Candida reminds one of some of Shakespeare's 
women. One is struck by how often Shakespeare 
presents strong women, women who arc clearly 
superior to the male inhabitants of their 
imaginative world. While we mourn the death of 
Juliet, she is at least saved from having to live 
the rest of her life with an adolescent twerp like 
Romeo. Portia, in The- Merchant oj \ . 
emerges from the lovely world oi Belmont, 



CRITICISM-L 



T £ R A R Y 



descends upon Venice and straightens out the 
male mess, and returns to Belmont with the men 
she has saved from their own folly. She is the 
prisoner of love, and one is saddened by the 
thought of her having to live the rest of her life 
with an empty head like Bassanio. She is a sister 
to the Rosaline of As You Like It and the 
Beatrice of Much Ado About Nothing. Male 
bonding must be broken, and the men must not 
find out that they are not really in charge. 

We must honor Shakespeare for his genius in 
questioning, however subtly and indirectly, the 
power arrangements between the sexes. But 
Shakespeare was an Elizabethan and his view of 
the human condition was at bottom conser- 
vative. It is not that, obviously, the world which 
is restored to equilibrium at the end leaves the 
men in places of power (they think), but that he 
had no coherent view of any other possibility. It 
is not that Shakespeare is against equality, but 
that the idea as we understand it simply would 
not have occurred to him. 

Not so with Shaw. She did not believe equality 
easily obtainable, but it was the driving principle 
behind her political and social writing as well as 
her plays. For that reason the life of Joan of Arc 
appealed to her, for it allowed her to bring into 
focus the themes that had impelled her develop- 
ment from her first well-made "Unpleasant 
Plays" through her Chekovian Heartbreak House: 
the conflict between the Life Force working 
through the human will against the tyranny of 
dead idealism encrusted in human institutions; 
the necessity of tragi-comedy with an unresolved 
ending to ensure the audience's continuing in- 
volvement in the play's themes and issues; the 
refusal to divide human beings into 
melodramatic categories of good and evil 
(although she believed in both); and the under- 
standing that a better world can never come 
about without equality between the sexes. 

Shaw's Saint Joan is carefully drawn as a woman 
who knows the truth that will set us free, but 
who also knows that truth will not overcome 
dressed in women's clothing. Shaw depended 
upon the documents of the trial for much of her 
dialogue, and it is astonishing from the perspec- 
tive of the twentieth century the mere fact o{ 
putting on male soldiers' garb could be regarded 
as evidence of heresy, witchcraft, and evil spirits. 
Joan herself made it obvious why she wanted to 
wear men's clothes— she did not want the troops 
she was leading to think of her as a woman, but 
as a fellow soldier. She was working God's will 
on earth, and she wanted no irrelevant con- 
siderations of romance to interfere with the 



necessary business of getting the Dauphin 
crowned King and forcing the English to go 
home where they belonged. What she did not 
and could not understand was that her visions 
of the future (which after all, worked) ran smack 
up against the inertia of a feudal system, 
dominated by a universal church. Shaw presents 
Joan as the first effective Protestant and Na- 
tionalist, but these are only metaphors of the 
collision between the irresistible Life Force and 
evolutionary change against the would-be im- 
movable objects of worldly institutions. The 
princes and prelates of fourteenth century 
Europe did not want any new definitions of 
what it means to be in this world but not of it 
forced upon them by a mere shepherd girl from 
a provincial backwater. And while they ap- 
propriated the fruits of her victories, they made 
her pay for her presumption with her life. Joan 
learned one of the hardest of life's lessons: 
nothing fails like success. 

If we are in any doubt that the lesson has to be 
relearned every day, consider Otto Preminger's 
movie of Shaw's play. It should have been called 
The Rape of Shaw's Joan. Aside from the 
egregious error of letting Grahame Greene write 
the screen play, which would be akin to asking 
William Buckley to edit the papers of Gore 
Vidal, Preminger hired an untrained Iowa 
schoolgirl to play Joan and injected a romantic 
interest by having the French general Dunois 
gaze yearningly at Joan whenever possible. In 
other words, Preminger pandered to what he 
thought was the popular audience's belief that 
no woman could be a hero unless there was a 
little sex brought in to explain why she had to 
do the men's work for them. Hollywood's treat- 
ment of Shaw's Joan is a perfect paradigm of 
much of their attitude toward serious literature. 
If you cannot face the implications of the play, 
distort the meaning. After all, we are all suppos- 
ed to believe, with Dorothy at the end of The 
Wizard of Oz, that happiness lies in our own 
back yard. We do not want any saints making 
waves or questioning the existing dispositions of 
power and money. 

But Shaw's Saint Joan survives even the movies. 
Like all great works of literature, Shaw's Saint 
Joan is not unlocked by one key, one interpreta- 
tion does not satisfy, and one reading or produc- 
tion does not exhaust its possibilities. And we 
must not flatten her play by imposing a feminist 
or any other ideology upon it. But there can be 
little doubt that Joan refreshes and embodies an 
honorable tradition in literature. The story of 
the life and death of Joan of Lorraine is a 
necessary subject to Shaw because her struggle is 



CRITICISM-LITERARY 



emblematic of the human condition. For Shaw, 
we are all God's people, given free will. We are 
created equal, but through the tragedy of the in- 
dividual, isolated consciousness we must struggle 
to create equality in human institutions. Shaw 
was willing to subject the traditional notions of 
the proper relations between men and women to 
a radical scrutiny when few others understood 
what that might mean. Saint Joan did, and 
Shaw found her a worthy hero/heroine for all of 
us to emulate. 

He once claimed to have modeled Joan on the 
female part of his own consciousness. One 
suspects that Shaw wished that he could have 
been the Saint Joan of the twentieth century. 
Failing that, we can all be grateful for the grace 
and artistry with which he has made Joan live 
for us, as part of our own times. 



3 B1B3 B B^B^ B I 



IIBE 



SAINT JOAN 

"Society is an organism that suffers the strange 
necessity of justifying its ends and appetites." 
O. Paz, Labyrinth of Solitude 

Time warp 

dun feathered bird entrapped 

wriggling through the snake skin tunnel 

of narrow vision 

to the far light 

the promise 

of sudden soaring 

scraping furiously along scaled 

walls 

that skewer snatches of flesh 

her coat of mail melting to a death mask. 

From the womb of glory 

exploding at last into the sun. 

Not a cold star flight 

instead 

the raving eye 

of an everlasting solar storm 

unsatiated hunger 

that consumes 

feathers, bones, 

eyes; 

falling from a space 

the bird still circling 

French fields 

shadowing our late Dark Ages 

calling over the empty hills 

of our relentless decimation 

yet 

still tumbling 

into the fire feast 

of that Medieval square in May. 

For we are charged 

to seize the exiled creature 

fallen from his age 

to feed our primal blaze: 

sole light 

against the jungle monsters 

His cries attack 

an unbearable silence 

and hold at bay 

the nameless horror 

of perceiving 

our existence. 

Joan Barchard Lewis 

=1 B1B3 B B^g^a B B31B B^ 



37 





BOOK REVIEW 






Nora Ephron 

"HEARTBURN " 

by Nora Ephron 

Margaret Brady 

They say you can't judge a book by its cover. 
That seems to be true, at least in this case. 

When I picked up a copy of Nora Ephron's 
Heartburn, I thought I was going to get what the 
cover offered me: "a novel." 

What I didn't expect to find was (as newspapers 
and magazines now describe it) a "thinly 
disguised story about Nora Ephron's "short-lived 
marriage" to Washington Post reporter Carl 
Bernstein. 

But that, unfortunately, is an apt description of 
Nora Ephron's first "novel." What did I learn 
from reading Heartburn 7 . That Carl Bernstein 
must be a terrible person — egotistical, self- 
centered— and that Ephron must have gotten a 
lot of things off her chest in writing Heartburn. 

Forgive me, though, when I say that I don't care 
to read a slightly fictionalized account of a real- 
life marriage gone sour. Magazines like People 
and Us fill that need. But while Heartburn may 
not be a great piece of fiction writing, it is a very 
contemporary and sad and, sometimes, witty 
look at the state of some relationships between 
men and women today. 



Meet Rachel Samstat (our novel's heroine and 
first-person narrator), a 38-year-old cookbook 
writer who is married to Mark Feldman, a syn- 
dicated columnist; their marriage is the second 
one for both and it appears that it won't last 
long. Mark has fallen in love with Thelma Rice, 
"a fairly tall person with a neck as long as an 
arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you 
should see her legs, never mind her feet, which 
are sort of splayed." 

To make matters worse, Mark's affair comes at a 
most inappropriate time — the seventh month of 
Rachel's pregnancy (their soon-to-be-second 
child). The rest of the story details Rachel's 
discovery of her husband's infidelity and the 
eventual break-up. And so it appears that 
Rachel the cookbook author has a recipe for 
nearly everything (including her prized 
vinaigrette)— everything, that is, but a healthy 
relationship. 

The unifying thread winding through Heartburn 
is Nora Ephron's humor— sometimes sharp, 
sometimes strangely sad, self-pitying, but usually 
entertaining, as any fan of Crazy Salad and Scrib- 
ble Scribble (essay collections) can testify. And it 
is this humor which saves Heartburn keeping it 
from being merely a "I'll get back at you" exer- 
cise. This is because Rachel (and, obviously, 
Nora Ephron) is able to laugh at herself as well 
as others. 

This is Rachel on marriage: "One thing I have 
never understood is how to work it so that 
when you're married, things keep happening to 
you. Things happen to you when you're single. 
You meet new men, you travel along, you learn 
new tricks, you read Trollope, you try sushi, you 
buy nightgowns, you shave your legs. Then you 
get married, and the hair grows in. . ." 

Rachel on husbands: "When I was in college, I 
had a list of what I wanted in a husband. A 
long list. I wanted a registered Democrat, a 
bridge player, a linguist with a particular fluency 
in French, a subscriber to The New Republic, a 
tennis player. I wanted a man who wasn't bald, 
who wasn't fat, who wasn't covered with too 
much body hair. I wanted a man with long legs 
and a small ass and laugh wrinkles around the 
eyes. . ." 

Frankly, I don't have a whole lot to say about 
Heartburn. It seemed so simplistic, so glib that I 
couldn't get interested in analyzing it. 

But I hope that Nora Ephron will try writing 
another novel again. And soon. We need the 
strength and humor of voices like hers. 





£ D / T O R 'S COLUMN 





EDITOR'S COLUMN 




The calligraphy is taken from Li Ching-chao's 
most famous poem, "Ninth Day, Ninth Month" 
and reads as follows: 

"The West Wind blows the curtains 

And I am frailer than the yellow ehr\santhemums. 



In praise of poets 

In this issue we present an armful of contem- 
porary poets, an homage to our ancient mentor, 
the divine Sappho herself, and it seems fitting to 
look eastward to the China of the 11th Century 
for another recognizable human voice. Li Ching- 
chao (1084-c.l 151) is universally considered to be 
China's greatest woman poet. Her life was color- 
ful and rich, according to her translator, Ling 
Chung (New Directions, 1979). She was a 
scholar of history and classics, a literary critic, 
an art collector, a specialist in bronze and stone 
inscriptions, a painter, a calligrapher, and a 
political commentator. Her life was turbulent; 
after the death of her beloved husband, she mar- 
ried a minor official who abused her both ver- 
bally and physically. She divorced him, was im- 
prisoned, exiled, and as she grew older suffered 
many hardships and loneliness, but continued to 
create art until her death. Compare this early 
poem: 

"Joy of Wine" 

I remember in Hsi Ting 

All the many times 

We got lost in the sunset, 

Happy with wine, 

And could not find our way back. 

When the evening came, 

Exhausted with pleasure, 

We turned out boat. 

By mistake we found ourselves even deeper 

In the clusters of lotus blossoms, 

And startled the gulls and egrets 

From the sand bars. 

They crowded into the air 

And hastily flapped away 

To the opposite shore. 

With this fragment of her later work from: 

"A Song of Departure" 

But now who will share with me 
The joys of wine and poetry? 
Tears streak my rouge 
My hairpins are too heavy. 

Yet, her special sensibility remains intact. 

"Cassia Flowers" 

After my sickness 
My temples have turned gray. 
I lie and watch the waning moon 
Climb up the gauze window screen. 
I boil a drink oi cardomon leat tips 
Instead of tea. 





E D 1 T O R 'S COLUMN 





It is good to rest on my pillows 

And write poetry. 

Before the door 

Beautiful in wind, shadow and rain, 

All day the fragrant cassia blossoms 

Bend toward me, delicate and subtle. 




Margaret Brady and I made a trek to the Art In- 
stitute of Chicago to hear Denise Levertov read 
her poetry. She was a child prodigy who wrote 
exquisite verse at the age of twelve. "With some 
temerity" she reports, she sent off a raft of her 
poems to T. S. Eliot who wrote back a many 
paged typed response filled with good advice. 
Later she was the protege' of Herbert Reed. Here 
is her first published work, written just before 
Dunkirk: 

"Listening to Distant Guns" 

The roses tremble; oh, the sunflower's eye 
Is opened wide in sad expectancy. 
Westward and back the circling swallows fly, 
The rooks' battalions dwindle near the hill. 

That low pulsation in the east is war: 
No bell now breaks the evening's silent dream. 
The bloodless clarity of evening's sky 
Betrays no whisper of the battle-scream. 

That early work, the voice of an astonishingly 
gifted child, clearly reflects the influence of the 
English poets she must have been reading. In 
1960, twenty years later, she wrote these lines ir 
"Art": 

The best work is made 
from hard, strong materials, 

obstinately precise — 
the line of the poem, onyx, steel. 

It's not a question of 
false constraints— but 

to move well and get somewhere 
wear shoes that fit. 



Pit yourself against granite, 
hew basalt, carve hard ebony- 
intractable 
guardians of contour. 

In these lines we recognize the mature voice of 
the seasoned artist, competent in her craft, sing- 
ing to us in a voice and from a spirit uniquely 
her own. 



Margaret Brady has contributed her report on 
our evening with Levertov. See page 30. 



ABOUT OUR STAFF 

As we begin Volume 7, the Quarterly comes to 
a major shift in the editorial and production 
process. Joan Lewis, who has been here on the 
scene for every issue since Volume 1, Number 1, 
in Summer of 1977, and has been a stalwart 
worker on every aspect of the magazine, from 
writing and editing to moving the copy through 
the system of word processing, typesetting, to 
graphics and printer, has now moved to Powell, 
Ohio. While we are losing her daily presence 
and support, we are not losing her interest, com- 
mitment or energy. She will continue to work 
for the magazine, editing, writing, helping to 
develop future issues, from Ohio. We know that 
this is possible, because for the entire year of 
1980, this editor was in the Netherlands, and 
keeping the mails (and occasionally the long 
distance telephone lines) hopping with copy. 
Joan played a major part in the collection of the 
work in this issue— a fitting farewell, in a way, to 
a comrade with a sensitive poet's eye and ear. 

A new name now appears for the first time on 
our masthead. John A. Ostenburg, Director of 
University Relations at this university, has 
recently come on board. He is a staunch 
feminist, and likes what we do here. John con- 
siders The Creative Woman a publication of 
"quiet dignity." We welcome him heartily to our 
staff, and look forward to a steadily improving 
quality due to his high level of expertise and ex- 
perience in publishing. This issue already reflects 
his influence. 

The seasons turn, for us as for the Earth. We in- 
hale the sweet new Spring air that comes across 
the prairies in May, and begin the next phase. 
Stay with us. 

HEH 



40 



LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 






FUND RAISING 





Report on Fund-raising 

Over one thousand dollars has been deposited to 
date in the GSU Foundation, restricted to The 
Creative Woman. This fund is used to develop an 
issue, from initial planning to interviewing and 
correspondence, editing and proofing. It makes 
possible a scope and variety that would be im- 
possible without these extra funds. Karen 
Degenhart, for example, has been developing the 
issue on Women in the Performing Arts, modest- 
ly supported by this fund. 

Your donations are gratefully received. To ex- 
press our appreciation, we send a framed print 
to all donors of $25 or more, made payable to 
the GSU Foundation (restricted to The Creative 
Woman). See the sample displayed, including 
"Primordial Goddess" by Judy Chicago, the Jan 
Saudek cover of our Spring-Summer 1983 issue, 
dolphins at play, or details from Botticelli's 
"Primavera." 

And for donors of $50 or more, you may select 
from framed original photographs that first ap- 
peared in these pages: for example, Sharon 
Rank's "Deer Creek," Rhoda Riley's, "Feather 
and Store", or Susan Eckert's "Wilderness 
Stoplight" or "Lone Canoe". 

Your contributions to this publication are tax 
deductible. 




m m 



Primordial Goddess by Judy Chicago 




Detail from Primavera by Botticelli 



Spring-Summer 1 983 Cover, Photo by ]an Saudek 





FUND RAISING 




Deer Creek b\ Sharon Rank 




Wilderness Stop/i^nt K Susan Ecken 



43 





FUND RAISING 






Lone Canoe by Susan Eckert 




Feather and Stone by Rhoda Riley 





ANNOUNCEMENTS 





AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL U.S.A. 



304 WEST 58th STREET NEW YORK, NY 10019 212/582-4440 



(fill 



U 

s 

A 



Women around the world are being silenced. 
They are victims of intimidation, illegal ar- 
rest and detention, and torture by govern- 
mental and para-governmental agents. They are 
victims of official campaigns to deny human rights 
and to crush the human spirit. In scores of na- 
tions—South Africa and China, El Salvador and 
Romania, Turkey and the Soviet Union, Egypt and 
Ethiopia — governments take illegal and extra-legal 
action against women who speak out or women 
who are perceived as potential opposition. 

These women are of all ages, from all walks of 
life. They are trade unionists, agricultural workers, 
office workers, housewives, journalists, physicians, 
and attorneys. Most are on the forefront of social 
and political change, and many are leaders. But 
others are victims of human rights abuses simply 
because they are wives, mothers, daughters, or 
friends of those deemed "dangerous." What is hap- 
pening to them should not happen to anyone. 

Some women have disappeared without a 
trace — suddenly taken from their home by armed 
men, pulled from a streetcar, or forcibly abducted 
with their children. They have vanished, never to 
be heard from again. 

Some women have been banned — officially re- 
moved from society and forbidden to write, publish, 
teach, travel, or attend social, business, professional 
or political activities. Those banned are often sent 
to remote areas far from home and family. 

Many are prisoners of conscience, arrested for 
their beliefs, for expressing opinions, for disclosing 
information that governments would rather keep 
from the public. Many are imprisoned without trial 
or sentenced by special ad hoc courts. For these 
women, free expression and free association have 
had devastating consequences. As women they are 
vulnerable to special exploitation and abuse. Moth- 
ers are abducted with their children, who are then 
threatened and in some cases tortured in front of 
them. Women pregnant when detained may give 
birth in prison, then have their babies taken to an 
unknown fate. Other women are subjected to sexual 
assault as a form of torture. 

Calculated inhuman treatment, wielded with 
the full force of official power, shatters the lives of 
women and of their children and families. For ev- 
ery silenced woman, we must speak out. Amnesty 
International has found that if enough people act, 
imprisoned women can be protected and freed. 



CONTACT: MARY DALY 



PRESS OFFICER 
212/582-4440 

SAIDA BOTAN 

ELMI 

Housewife, Detained with 
out Charge in Somalia 

THE WOMEN'S 

PRISON 

Iran 

MARIANELA 
GARCIA VILLAS 

Human Rights Activist 
Killed in El Salvador 



□ 



I would like to join Amnesty International 
USA's Urgent Action Network and send at 
least one message a month on behalf of 
a woman. I understand you will send the 
necessary materials at no charge. 

| |l would like more information about women 

prisoners of conscience. 



I would like more information about Amnesty 
International. 



I enclose $ 



as a contribution towards the 



work of Amnesty International USA. 



Name 



City 



mail to: Amnesty International USA 
304 West 58th St. 
New York, NY 10019 





ANNOUNCEMENTS 





NIT&\*)IT 

\# Chicago's ms nfloflzint 



NITckWIT, Chicago's Arts Magazine, voted #2 in the country in its category by Writer's 
Digest, August 1983. Leonard J. Dominguez, Editor; Cheryl Kent, Fiction Editor; Elaine 
Madsen, Bookworks Editor; Larry Hunt, Poetry Editor; Cathy Favakeh, Colleen Grace, 
Vicky Gorski and Maria Showfer, Cultural Guide Editors; Kathleen J. Cummings, 
Publisher. P.O. Box 14685, Chicago, II 60614, (312) 248-1183. Founded in 1977. 

Art in all of its forms is the ultimate expressions of Life, of what it means to be human. 
NITckWIT publishes the best available fiction, poetry, art, photography and humor from 
worldwide submissions. Additionally, regular features encompassing the performing arts of 
film, art, music, theatre, and dance provide the NITckWIT reader with a continuing sense 
of the State of the Arts. 

NITckWIT requests that manuscripts be limited to 1,500 words. Include a stamped, self- 
addressed postcard for a reply. Photography and art are best submitted in black and 
white. Work will be returned if submitted with SASE with adequate postage. Reporting 
time is 8 weeks. First time rights only. Payment for now is in a contributor's copy and ex- 
posure to literary readers all over the country. Sample copy, $2. NITckWIT is bi-monthly, 
readership is 45,000. 8V£ X 11, offset, 68 pages. Subscriptions: $9.00 yr, $16.00/2 yrs. 

ANNUAL CONTESTS: Short Fiction, announced in Nov/Dec issue, deadline Febr. 15. 
Poetry, announced in March/ April issue, deadline June 15. 
Photography, announced in the July/August issue, deadline 
Oct. 15. 

Contests carry cash awards and winners are published. Send SASE for specific contest 
guidelines. 



NIT & WIT MAGAZINE • P.O. BOX 14685, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 60614 • (312) 248-1183 



PLEX US 

West Coast Women's Press 

545 Athol Avenue 
Oakland, CA 94606 

Dear Sisters* (415)451~2585 

I am a feminist writer/editor beginning work on an anthology about 
women who have given their children up for adoption. Little has 
been written by, for or about these women, and the interest and 
response I have received on the project thus far leads me to believe 
it is necessary and important work. 

I am enclosing a call for contributors which hope you will run in 
your publication. I want the anthology to encompass the perspectives 
and experiences of women of all racial, ethnic and economic back- 
grounds. It is, therefore, essential that the notice reach as many 
women as possible. 

At present, I have no outside funding for the project and would 
appreciate it very much if the notice could be run for free. If this 
is not possible, please send me information on you classified adver- 
tising rates. 

Thank you for your time and help. If you have any questions about the 
project, please feel free to contact me at Plexus . 



Sincerely, 




\ 



K . Kaurmann 



Make checks payable to The Creative Woman/GSU. 
Please send me The Creative Woman for one year. Enclosed is my check or money order for $ 



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